County approves 2014 budget, salaries, and long term financial plan

In the final meeting of 2013, the Carver County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s 2014 levy and budget, as well as the long term financial plan for Carver County.
For the ninth straight year, the county’s portion of property taxes will decrease for the average-value home in the county.
The 2014 budget is set for $162.2 million, and while it is significantly higher than in years passed, it was noted that Carver County has taken on the role of lead agency on the Southwest Reconnection Project in 2014, a project that is estimated to cost nearly $59 million. The approved budget shows a $40 million increase in intergovernmental revenue, up to $63.1 million. That money will include funds from MnDOT and Scott County for the construction of the four-lane Highway 101 Bridge, stretching from Chanhassen to Shakopee over the Minnesota River. The project is also reflected in the nearly $70 million increase in capital expenditures.
The property tax levy for 2014 will increase by nearly $2 million to a total of $47,546,920, which represents a 4.2 percent increase over last year. The $1.9 million will come from a new construction tax base and a two percent inflation adjustment.
“Of this increase property tax levy, nearly $1.1 million will be used to partially fund a proposed $31.2 million bond sale for the 2014 Road and Bridges projects,” said Board Chairman Tim Lynch in a press release.
Of that $31.2 million bond sale, $23.7 million of it is needed to help cover the state’s turn-back account. The remaining levy increase will go to the General Fund for increased operational costs. The budget includes spending cuts directed at these increased costs.
The General Fund will also be allocated money from existing County Program Aid ($616,000) and new CPA funds of $493,000 from the state.
The 2015 and beyond long term plan, approved at the Dec. 17 session, includes an outline of how the county will fund new capital projects without increasing the tax levy impact on average value homes in the coming years.
The Plan focuses on four areas that can significantly impact future budgets and levies, including: capital improvement plans for new projects, replacement schedules for facilities, equipment, and vehicles, bond sales and debt services, and financial challenges of the operating budget.
Future capital improvement projects include buildings (like two new libraries and a remodel of the government center’s West building), roads and bridges (like replacing more structurally deficient bridges), parks and trails (focused on sustainability, maintenance, and expansions), and operations (to increase productivity and minimize health insurance increases).
“The long-range plan is used with the annual budget to help the staff and the County Board connect financial strategies so we can achieve short-term and long-term goals and objectives,” Lynch said. “By planning for future needs, we are able to systematically bring new elements into the annual budget. Having this type of long-term planning process is one of the reasons our County continues to have a AAA bond rating.”
The Board also approved commissioner compensations as well as sheriff and attorney’s salaries at the Dec. 17 meeting. After two years of decreased salaries, the commissioners voted for a 3 percent increase in 2014. In 2013, the Carver County commissioners had the lowest base salary among Dakota, Anoka, Washington, and Scott counties and will be the lowest again in 2014.
Based on market data, both the Carver County Sheriff and County Attorney’s salaries were raised for 2014, to bring their salaries up to average. The board approved a 3.94 percent increase for the Sheriff, bring the total salary to $132,000 and an increase of $8,000 for the County Attorney to bring that salary up to $135,000.
Also at the meeting, the Board approved the 2014 levy for the Carver County Regional Rail Authority, with no significant changes made from previous years. The CCRRA has again requested a $120,000 levy for 2014, an amount which has remained unchanged since 2008.
Federal funding has been secured to build a bituminous trail from the east county line to the west county line along the former Dakota Rail Line. The first phase of this project was completed in 2011 and the second phase is expected soon. Additional funds are expected to build a bituminous trail along the Union Pacific Rail line, recently acquired by the county, in either 2015 or 2016.
Both the long term financial plan and the County Administrator’s Message on the 2014 Budget can be found on the county website. The completed budget book will be available online in January. Any questions should be directed to the county’s Financial Services Division Director David Frischmon at (952) 361-1506.
The board’s next meeting will be Jan. 7 at 9 a.m. when it meets for its 2014 organizational session.

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

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