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Local governments set levies

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Local governments have set their preliminary tax levy rates for 2010.

The Morris Area School Board on Monday approved a preliminary levy of $3.04 million, which is a 3.61 percent increase over the 2009 levy.

The board approved the levy at its regular meeting at the Donnelly Town Hall.

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners adopted their proposed 2010 budget and levy last week, and the City of Morris approved its budget and levy rates earlier this month.

Governments are required by the state to ratify preliminary budgets and levies in September, although the figures can be modified before final budgets and levies need to be approved in December. Once preliminary levy rates are approved, governments can lower the rates but can't increase them.

The county adopted a preliminary budget that calls for reducing expenditures 11 percent (from $12.7 million to $11.3 million), and will see an almost 22 percent drop in County Program Aid from 2009 ($1.04 million to $817,000). The county is expected to spend down reserves by $631,000 - the 2009 reserve spend down was $191,000 -- and will increase its levy 1.11 percent (from $4.67 million to $4.73 million).

The levy approved does not include $158,000 the county could collect through an approved special levy which allows governments to recoup funds lost when Gov. Tim Pawlenty chose unallotment to recall and reduce local aid payments last December and earlier this summer.

The county still faces a budget shortfall of about $247,000 even if it adopts the special levy.

The City of Morris approved a preliminary budget of $8.3 million and a levy of $1.36 million. The levy results in a 23.4 percent increase, but City Manager Blaine Hill said the actual levy put before the City Council is December most likely will be about 8.5 percent. That's a 3 percent hike after a 5.5 percent tax reduction the city approved for 2009 is reinstated, Hill said.