Watershed District approves $1 million preliminary levy

The Shell Rock River Watershed District Board of Managers approved a $1 million preliminary project tax levy as part of its preliminary budget Tuesday.

The levy passed on a 4-1 vote, and was a reduction from a separate option of a $1.6 million levy.

Manager Joe Pacovsky was the lone dissenting vote. Managers Gary Pestorious and Mike Hanson were absent.

The levy would increase taxes $37 on a $100,000 assessed home. A $100,000 assessed home currently pays $9.14 for Watershed District operations.

The levy was certified to the Freeborn County Auditor and Treasurer’s Office.

The levy and a preliminary $3 million bonding option, which was also passed by the board, can be reduced before December’s final levy is set.

The levy and the bond cannot be increased.

Watershed District officials said there the project tax levy will cover a gap in the sales tax funding between when the current sales tax expires around September 2017 and when the sales tax could be renewed.

Administrator Brett Behnke, who presented the proposed levy Tuesday, said on Monday that he was not sure the sales tax would be addressed by the Legislature in 2017 due to bills left over from this year’s legislative session.

Pacovsky said he voted against the project tax levy because of his belief that Watershed District officials need to find other ways of adding revenue other than implementing a property tax.

“The citizens and property owners should not be assessed other than what they might be paying for sales tax in their purchases in Albert Lea or through the administrative budget,” he said, noting his belief that funding issues should be addressed through adjusting the timing and sizes of individual projects and finding short-term revenue sources.

Manager Al Bakken spoke in support of the levy at the meeting.

“Filling the sales-tax gap makes common sense to me,” Bakken said, noting the $1 million levy would allow for $600,000 to be placed in reserve for district projects, such as Wedge Creek and Pickerel Lake Dam work and Fountain Lake dredging.

“I know it’s difficult to put the levy on property, but if we are going to complete these projects, it’s what we have to do to complete these projects,” he said.

In other action, the board:

  • Set the preliminary administrative levy at $250,000 to cover administrative wages, office supplies, rent insurance, legal notices, training and other things.

 

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007