Watershed Board Approves Scaled-Back Project Tax Levy

The Shell Rock River Watershed District’s Board of Managers on Tuesday unanimously approved a scaled-back version of its proposed project tax levy introduced in September.

Managers approved a $142,000 project tax levy and a $50,000 survey and data acquisition fund levy for water monitoring efforts. The combined increase is $14 on a home valued at $100,000, said district Administrator Brett Behnke.

The reduced levy amount came after differing opinions from Freeborn County and the Watershed District on the legality of the district’s originally proposed $1 million levy.

Watershed District consultant Mariah Lynne said district officials are focused on making the right decision, adding that the new levy is consistent with several state statutes.

The district submitted the approved levy to the auditor-treasurer Thursday.

Behnke said the passing of the half percent sales tax renewal in November allowed the district to decrease the levy from its original proposal. Watershed District officials said previously the project tax levy would 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.

“The voters spoke, and they told us that they want to fund our projects primarily through the sales tax,” he said. “We cannot eliminate the property tax, and it is a tool that will remain in our toolchest.”

The board approved the 2017 administrative levy at $250,000.

“Like most watershed districts in Minnesota, the district levies $250,000 a year in property taxes to fund administrative costs,” a press release said. “The figure has remained consistent since the SRRWD was established in 2003 and has never increased.”

Behnke thanked the members of the Lakes Foundation, including the organization’s President Laura Cunningham, for their efforts in educating the voters before the November election about the district accomplishments and goals, as well as members of the district’s board.

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