GRANITE FALLS - During their regular meeting Tuesday Yellow Medicine County commissioners approved a 1.9 percent levy increase and approved a balanced budget that included cuts across almost all departments.
The county faced hard cuts in its state program aid this year, receiving a 62 percent cut in state funding from the 2010 fiscal year. In total, the county received $460,000 in cuts from the state.
"We keep losing our county program aid due to the state's deficit." county administrator Ryan Krosch said.
The 1.9 percent increase to the levy adopted by commissioners Tuesday will add $148,000 to county coffers, Krosch said, but overall departments were forced to make cuts and spending has been decreased county-wide.
"We are spending less money this year by $300,000 dollars," commissioner Ron Antony said. "We did make cuts, but we still have to increase the levy because of the cuts from the state."
The final 2011 county budget set by commissioners totals $15,464,000.
The meeting attracted the attention of several county residents who turned up in opposition to a increase in the levy and to voice concerns over increases in property taxes.
"The federal is passing it to the state, the state passes it to you, and you pass it on to us. Where are we suppose to pass it to?" Ralph Peterson, a resident of the Oshkosh Township, said. "The people on the bottom are paying more money and they're going to get less services."
The resolution to pass the levy increase passed with a 4-1 majority vote. Commissioner Ron Antony was the sole dissenting vote. Antony said he favored taking money from reserves instead of increasing the tax levy. Commissioners voting in favor of the levy expressed concerns with using reserve funds to balance the budget and were more comfortable with the budget as written.
"I think we got a balanced budget with no thrills in it," commissioner Dick Wambeke said.
Representatives from state and federal Legislatures were in attendance at the meeting Tuesday to hear the county commissioners' concerns and discuss changes in government. The issue of local government aid was at the top of those discussed as commissioners looked for answers as to why they were cut 62 percent.
"Local government aid will stay right where it is or it will go away," said District 20 State Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls. "I don't see much happening besides that, unless there are negotiations and some give and take."
Answers from representatives did not put commissioners at ease. Commissioner Gary Johnson expressed the opinion that he would rather see a raise in taxes than see local government aid cut further.
District 20B Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, said there is no easy fix to the looming state budget deficit, but that legislatures will be looking at all the options when coming up with a solution.
"To get out of this we'll need a combination of raising taxes and making cuts," Koenen said. "I think they'll be cuts to almost every area."