The Rice County Board of Commissioners tonight hosted a Truth in Taxation Hearing at the County Government Services Center in Faribault. A handful of people did attend in person and several people connected by ZOOM for the meeting.

There were no general questions by the public.  All the questions submitted dealt with their personal property tax situation.  Rice County Administrator Sara Folstad provided a slide presentation of the proposed final levy and budget but I was only able to get audio of the meeting so I can't provide any possible charts from the meeting.

I couldn't find the presentation on the Rice County website or in the packet for the hearing.

Folstad reported the proposed total budget for all 2021 funds is $80 million 629,602 dollars, "The total levy increase is $1.5 million and 5.51 percent.  The HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) increase is  $46,553 dollars.  The combined county and HRA levy then is a 5.64 percent increase.  Leaving the total 2021 property tax levy at $29 million 921,276 dollars."

Folstad went through each of the department increases and decreases and stated there are some unknowns with the budget as far as, "How the state might choose to balance their budget (resulting) in cost shifts in those areas."

The Rice County Administrator explained Minnesota counties like cities receive some receive some aid, "For 2021 based on a formula we are scheduled to lose some of our aid and that amount (requires) a one percent increase in our levy.  The HRA levy is going up $46,553. That's a 31.29 percent increase."

Folstad said commissioners approved starting a special housing project in the amount of $50,000 dollars, "We did a housing study earlier and we know that is such a need here in the county.  We have a very low residency rate, high cost rental market here.  So we're starting to try to build that fund to be able to participate where we can to help make it more affordable.  Whether it's workforce housing or whatever the need might be.  Then we can start to participate in those type of things to help improve that situation here in Rice County."

Some fund balance money is being used next year. $275,000 in road maintenance agreements.  A new squad car will be purchased that is needed.  An additional 3 correctional officers are also needed to meet the Department of Corrections staffing guideline minimums.

Most questions sent from the public again dealt with individual property tax situations.

Folstad concluded the hearing by saying, "It depends what portion of the taxes are going up.  If it's a school thing there's not a lot the county board can do with those situations.  We can only control our local spending.  I'm not sure if there's any federal relief coming for individuals.  I can understand how that would  be challenging.  Especially when you're on a fixed income."

The hearing lasted approximately 40 minutes.

The Rice County Board of Commissioners will pass a final levy and budget at their meeting next Tuesday.  They can not increase the levy but can lower their final figure.


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