The Stearns County Board of Commissioners approved its final budget and levy for 2015. The board approved a budget of nearly $131-million, a 1.61-percent reduction in spending.
Although spending is down, the budget does include a levy increase of 1.8 percent, a total levy of $69.5 million, due to increased caseloads in Human Services and a reduction in federal and state aid. The budget also calls for spending an additional $1.8 million on roads; most of that funding coming from the recently enacted wheelage tax.
The budget was approved on a 3-to-2 vote, with Commissioners DeWayne Mareck, Leigh Lenzmeier and Steve Notch voting for the proposal, calling it reasonable and agreeing to look at non-mandated county programs next year.
After some discussion the last few months on non-mandated services, the board voted in November to make cuts to the Sentence to Service program. STS is a program that offers an alternative to jail or fines, allowing clients to re-pay the public through community service work at non-profits or government agencies. Commissioners eliminated one of two STS crews and the building leased for inside STS work, saving the county approximately $100,000.
Despite an increased levy, most property tax payers in Stearns County will see a reduction in their county property tax. The decrease in taxes is due to a 2.6-percent increase in tax capacity, mostly from the additional taxes generated from new utilities – the new power lines running through Stearns County. On average, agricultural properties will see a tax increase, but this increase is off-set by the average $200 state agricultural credit.
The public can get budget details, and leave comments, on Stearns County’s website at StearnsCountyMN.gov.