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Wadena County Commission: Board looks to cut 4.2 percent increase in levy further

Wadena County Commissioners were a bit shocked upon hearing the county tax levy was pushing over a 5 percent increase during their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 25.

County coordinator Ryan Odden was surprised as well, but noted some ways to lower that amount. County commissioners Chuck Horsager and Jim Hofer sit on the budget committee and both hoped to see the levy increase shrink closer to 3 percent. Hofer indicated the changes were plentiful on the journey to shrinking the budget.

"The budget and the levy is a moving target, like hitting a clay target with a BB gun," Hofer said.

Odden went through potential changes and after some discussion with the board and county attorney Kyra Ladd, they determined a way to cut about $100,000 from the budget, bringing the levy increase to about 4.19 percent. Some of the cuts could be attributed to lower health insurance rate costs.

The total preliminary levy the board approved came to $9,182,879. The board had a hope to remove another $100,000 before the budget was finalized, and committee members decided to go back to work to find further cuts.

Horsager said the 5.3 percent increase the board first saw was not acceptable in his book.

"As a member of the budget committee we probably have a little more work to do," he said.

In other actions, the board:

• Approved the proposal for concrete work at the County Health Department including steps, ramp and a railing from M.L. Schmitt Concrete Construction, Inc. for $6,800. The work would make the site handicap accessible and be completed before the parking lot improvements are made.

• Approved the purchase of new technology for the Wadena County Sheriff's Office including mobiles (about $41,300) and portables (about $48,000). Sheriff Mike Carr said the technology was mandated to be updated by 2020 and without sufficient funding, the department needed to seek funding from the county. The county commissioners approved using $90,000 from a $600,000 special fund the county received from the Legislature.

• Agreed on the use of $600,000 received for county governmental aid. Right off the bat, $150,000 was allocated for Human Services. Another $150,000 will also be allocated for Human Services in 2019. $90,000 was reserved for the Sheriff's Department to pay for new mobiles and portables. The remaining $210,000 will be reserved in a county commission fund, as Commissioner Bill Stearns suggested.

• Approved holding a tax forfeited land sale, in 2018, including properties within city limits of all Wadena County cities. The motion was made as a way to offer properties for lower prices in order to possibly encourage some economic development of the sites, whether vacant lots or existing homes.

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