Le Sueur County holds truth-in-taxation hearing

By Jake Keohen

The Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners held its truth-in-taxation public hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2 at the courthouse in Le Center. The hearings, mandated by the state for all counties, cities and school districts, give the governmental entities an opportunity to explain tax levies and budget decisions, while also giving residents the opportunity to express their opinion (the Montgomery-Lonsdale School District was not required to hold a hearing this year because of levy reduction).

The public hearing is held to discuss the current budget and the amount of property taxes the county board is proposing to collect to pay for the costs of services which Le Sueur County will provide in 2005.

The hearing was opened by Board Chair Terry Hayes of Montgomery, who explained the purpose of the hearing to a handful of residents who were present, along with several staff department heads.

County Auditor Ron Germscheid gave a well-prepared presentation on the budget and levy numbers. He welcomed questions from the audience, and there were a few — concerning increased land values in the rural area based on recent sales, increased valuation following completion of new construction, budget increases and unfunded mandates, and questioning the number of sheriff's department officers and need for additional help. Residents were advised to refer questions pertaining to property valuations to the office of County Assessor Dave Armstrong.

Officials have stressed that property owners must consider the whole picture when looking at tax increases or decreases, keeping in mind that market values may change, and county, city, township and school district budgets and levies may also see changes from year to year.

Germscheid said the final proposed county budget for 2005 is $26,918,899, which is an increase of 5.14 percent over the previous year. The proposed property tax levy is $9,799,935, representing an increase of $908,000 or10.21 percent because of revenue losses and additional expenses.

Some of those revenue losses and expenses include state program aid loss of $122,000 ($600,000 the previous year), equipment (road and bridge, jail, telecommunications, sheriff's cars), fuel cost increases, property insurance/workman's comp, additional sheriff's deputy, medical insurance increase, comprehensive plan update, building maintenance (heat pumps, etc), Washington Park sewer hookup and library. These revenue losses and increased expenses total more than $1 million

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