Martin Co. cuts down 2015 levy

FAIRMONT – Martin County commissioners whittled the proposed levy of 16 percent down to 13.9 percent, but they agreed more cutting needs to be done.

“With the cuts we talked about at the last meeting, we’re at a 13.9 percent increase,” Auditor Jim Forshee told the commissioners Tuesday. “To get to 10 percent, we still have to cut $400,000.”

Reducing the number of full-time attorneys from four to three, lowering utility and maintenance costs and raising feed lot inspection fees would help alter the levy.

“Additional cuts and additional revenue would get us down to about 10 percent,” Forshee said.

Each year, the county budget includes allocations to various groups in the community.

“Do we continue doing that?” Forshee asked.

“There’s a number of grant opportunities available,” Commissioner Steve Pierce said.

“We need to have more discussion,” Commissioner Elliot Belgard said.

Commissioner Dan Schmidtke said the levy was the No.1 topic at the county’s booth at the recent Martin County Fair.

“There’s only so many places to cut without cutting people,” he said.

The county’s levy traditionally has been single digits, and Forshee predicted this would again be the norm after 2015.

The preliminary levy must be submitted to the state by Sept. 15, with the final levy approved in December. The county can reduce its levy after entering a preliminary percentage, but it cannot increase it.

Commissioners supported Sheriff Jeff Markquart’s request to recruit temporary part-time staff from Faribault County to fill in as needed in Martin County. The sheriff explained that a shortage of part-time staff occurs infrequently, but he wants to have a plan in place when it does happen. Faribault County staff has agreed to assist until additional part-time staff is hired and trained.

The commissioners agreed that there were few, if any, other options and noted that the two counties already have mutual agreements on the patrol side.

Markquart said he is in the process of hiring additional part-time staff, with three people currently “sitting in” to learn what the job entails.

In other action, the commissioners:

o Approved an annual resolution to MnDOT for operation of the Martin County public transit system. The county is required to provide 15 percent of all operational costs, with passenger fares covering that portion. The county also is required to pay 20 percent of capital costs, which this year includes an estimated $72,000 bus replacement.

o Hired Beau Karge as part-time corrections officer at $15.96 an hour on an as-needed basis.

o Accepted a grant of $9,792 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for meeting performance standards in the county feedlot program.

o Set the “tax forfeited land tour” to follow the regular meeting on Sept. 2.

o Approved the engineer’s final report for the proposed improvement of ditch No. 30 in Fraser and Rutland townships.