RED WING — Goodhue County’s 2020 levy and budget will be finalized after a County Board vote in December. Before that, a preliminary levy will be set on Sept. 17. In order to set the preliminary levy, the board and heads of departments met Tuesday, Sept. 3, to discuss what needed to be cut, added and remain in the budget.

The levy proposed on Tuesday was $37,076,033, which is about a 3.01% increase from the 2019 levy. Only one item was agreed to be cut at the meeting: $50,000 for the county’s new drug court.

According to Kelly Bolin, the county’s finance controller, the percentage of the four-year grant that has been used so far this year is much smaller than originally planned for a couple of reasons. First, the program started three months later than planned, and second, the incentives portion of the program, which requires more funding, is not a main aspect yet. As more and more individuals move through the program, the incentives stage will be more frequently used.

The $50,000 that was cut from the budget is extra money that had been added for the court on-top of the grant.

County Attorney Stephen O'Keefe told those gathered that he has budgeted about $125,000 for each year of the four-year grant. He went on to say that he and Judge Douglas Bailey are committed to working within the set budget.

The extra funding to the drug court may not happen in 2020, but commissioners are still interested in funding the program after the grant ends in three years. Board President Brad Anderson stated:

“My hope always was that we would always be putting a little in there, so that when it ran out we’d still be able to continue and budget going forward based on success.”

Commissioner Barney Nesseth proposed cutting $200,000 from the budget for county roads.

Anderson and Public Works Director Greg Isakson held steadfast to the roads budget.

“We’re still under-funding our system based on our 50-year life cycle cost analysis. We’re still $6 million a year short,” Isakson told Nesseth.

To compromise, Anderson and Commissioner Paul Drotos committed to take $200,000 from the South Country Health Alliance before the budget is voted on in December. This is, according to Drotos, assuming that the river doesn’t rise or anything else happens before then.

City finances

The Red Wing budget meeting was a much longer affair, mostly because the city is not as far into the budgeting process as the county is.

The budget will have some line items removed from this year’s budget: a position in the clerk’s office that is not going to be filled, for example. At the same time, numerous items will be added for 2020: a bronze plaque in Oakwood Cemetery, suppressors on firearms for the Police Department so officers' target practices doesn’t disturb neighbors, and $5,000 for the mayor’s new arts and culture task force.

While the combination of adding and removing items is an expected part of every budgeting season, one thing new this year is the shift in the tax base. Finance Director Marshall Hallock explained that Xcel Energy's value dropped while property taxes for most homeowners increased.

Like the county, Red Wing’s City Council decided not to create a preliminary levy that is as low as possible; the final levy can be lower than the preliminary levy, but not higher.

Both municipalities will set the preliminary levy this month. Goodhue County votes during the Tuesday, Sept. 17, meeting and the city will vote on Monday, Sept. 9.

The state of Minnesota requires that all preliminary levies are set by the end of the month.