Lyon County TNT meeting reviews 2019 budget, levy proposals

MARSHALL — Lyon County’s annual “Truth In Taxation” hearing was sparsely attended Wednesday night. But even though there were no comments submitted from members of the public, Lyon County Commissioners heard an update on the county’s budget process and proposed 2019 levy.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said compared to the last time county commissioners discussed the 2019 levy and budget, “The major change was the board set a 2 percent (preliminary) levy increase,” instead of proposals of over 3 percent. In order to make the proposed budget balance with a 2 percent levy increase, Stomberg said the county’s budgeted contingency funds were reduced.

Commissioners will need to finalize a budget and levy this month, county staff said. The topic will be included on an upcoming agenda for the county board.

At the hearing, commissioners heard details of the budget and levy proposals, as well as information about Lyon County’s tax capacity.

Stomberg said the proposed 2019 budget included a total net levy of about $14.75 million. That would be a 2 percent increase, or about $289,000, over 2018.

The proposed 2019 budget included a total of almost $25.8 million in revenues. About 57 percent, or $14.75 million, of that total came from property taxes.

“The bulk of our operating funds are coming from property tax,” Stomberg said.

The proposed budget also included a total of about $26.6 million in expenditures. Of that total spending, about 35 percent went toward highways and streets, and 22 percent went toward public safety. General government expenditures made up 17 percent of total spending.

The county’s proposed net tax capacity for 2019 was around $40.06 million, said Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg. That figure was up from the 2018 net tax capacity, of $39.82 million. But it was still less than 2015’s high point, when Lyon County’s net tax capacity was at $42.4 million. That high point was “mainly driven by ag land values,” Moberg said.

A little more than 50 percent of the proposed 2019 tax capacity was made up of agricultural property, compared to 23.8 percent for residential property and 17.9 percent for commercial and industrial property, county staff said. Those figures reflected market value of properties, and not necessarily the county budget, staff said. Usually, if land values fall for one type of property, other types start to make up a bigger share of the net tax capacity.

“It’s not uncommon in rural Minnesota for agricultural property to bear the burden,” Stomberg said. Lyon County was fortunate, he said, in that it had more property diversity than some rural counties. That diversity helps lessen the property tax burden on farmland.