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Budget Earns Tentative Approval From Conference Board

By Staff | Jan 28, 2010

A budget of $219,626 received tentative approval from the Palo Alto County Conference Board during the annual meeting of the group with Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The proposed budget will be voted on during a public hearing set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 9, in the Supervisors’ boardroom of the Palo Alto County Courthouse in Emmetsburg.

The Conference Board, which is comprised of the county Board of Supervisors, as well as representatives of each of the school districts in the county and the mayors of each community in the county, learned that the budget would increase by $2,950 over the current year’s budget.

Present for the session were Palo Alto County Supervisors Jerry Hofstad, Keith Wirtz, Leo Goeders, Ron Graettinger and Ed Noonan, as well as Graettinger Mayor Kevin Hanson and School Board members Don Hagen of the Emmetsburg School Board and Lannie Miller of the West Bend-Mallard School Board. A quorum was determined for the Supervisors and the School Boards, allowing the meeting to continue. As there was no quorum for the Mayors, they would have no vote.

In her report to the Conference Board, Naig reported that in the past year, Palo Alto County’s taxable valuations had risen by $209 million during the past year. Part of the reason for the increase was in the form of a state-ordered 64 percent increase in ag-land valuations and a state-ordered 16 percent increase in commercial property valuations. Additionally, Naig reported that she and her staff had conducted an in-house evaluation on residential properties during the last year.

“During the past year, Palo Alto County experienced $8.3 million in new construction,” Naig said. “As far as protests, there were 105 protests timely filed to the Board of Review. There were four property assessment appeals, all on lake properties, and one district court protest, also on a lake property.”

As a point of information, Naig noted that two of the protests came on properties at Lost Island Lake, while one was on Silver Lake and one at Five Island Lake. The District Court protest involved a Five Island Lake property, but was settled out of court.

“Remember, the Board of Review does not determine the taxes on a parcel,” Naig reminded the Conference Board. “All the Board of Review does is determines if the assessment of the parcel is fair.”

Naig continued, “The Department of Revenue has said they would like a re-valuation of our commercial properties. We have not done a complete re-evaluation of our Commercial and Industrial properties for quite some time and I’ve been given a quote of $128,500 from Vanguard Appraisals to do one, so that is something to think about for the future.”

Board members approved the re-appointment of Dan Stokes of Mallard to a six year-term on the Board of Examiners. Also serving on the Board of Examiners are Ella Rae Egland and Sharon Hobart.

Presenting the proposed budget to the Conference Board members, Naig presented the budget for Fiscal Year 2010-2011, noting the total was of $219,626, a modest increase of $2,950 over the FY 2009-2010 budget amount of $216,676. The increases come for employee insurance, as well as postage fees for the coming year.

“There are no salary increases, and actually salaries went down slightly with the retirement of Patty Bisenius last year after 30 years of service and the hiring of Jodi Jergens to replace her,” Naig noted. “There is a little higher cost increase for insurance coverage, from a single to a family coverage, and there are changes to the dental insurance that the county is offering for the employees.”

Naig also noted that a large increase in the budget for the coming year was for postage, due to action by the Legislature. “The Legislature says now that in even years, the Assessor must send all property owners a roll of their properties. There are 17,000 parcels in the counties that reports will have to be sent out on, so that’s going to require some additional postage from a normal year.”

On a motion by Supervisor Ron Graettinger, seconded by Lannie Miller, the budget was given tentative approval as submitted with the Supervisors and School Boards voting aye.