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County board sets its budget, tax levy for 2011

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Despite a growing number of unknowns, Dakota County has developed its 2011 budget.

At its regular meeting this week, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved a 2011 budget of $307 million and a property tax levy of $129 million.

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The 2010 budget was $368 million. The levy was $128.

State funding remains the unknown part of the county's finances due to the disconnect between certified increases due the county in general purpose state aids and the state's nearly $6 billion projected budget deficit for its next biennium.

"As a result, the county's budget is built on assumed reductions in state revenues," said Dakota County finance director Matt Smith.

The county's 2010 budget had been reduced by 5 percent from 2009. The county board and senior managers across the county began a significant prioritization process as a key part of the 2011 process.

Likewise, there is a 5 percent decrease in the operating budget from 2010 to 2011.

The priorities will continue to be reviewed throughout the year. The Minnesota Legislature will address the financial issues when it convenes next month.

Because the state is expected to make significant permanent reductions in revenues transferred to counties and other local governments as part of its overall budget solution, the county budget makes corresponding permanent adjustments on spending to align with the new, lower level of state revenue expected, said Smith.

The cost of staffing the county operation continues to grow, with much of it due to the increasing cost of employee health insurance.

Those costs are reflected in the budget.

The budget work for this coming year been one directed at prioritizing services. Staff time was devoted to reviewing county services and programs relative to the county's strategic objectives, said Smith. The county board offered its input as well.

"As a result, the 2011 budget attempts to protect the highest-priority services while reducing or eliminating activities and expenditures of lower relative value," said Smith.

Some services have been modified or eliminated, some staff positions eliminated and transitioned, and grants to outside service providers reduced or eliminated.

When the maximum property levy was adopted in September, the county board pointed to the declining tax base, rising foreclosures, and continuing high unemployment rate among its property owners.

Due to changes in the tax base, a 0.8 percent increase in the levy in 2011 would actually result in slightly lower county taxes for median priced residential properties.

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Nathan Hansen
Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.
(651) 460-6606
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