Lyon County Board sets FY22 levy at 1.7%

By Tara Brandl

Budgets, fees and wages were all covered at the Lyon County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday. The board set the levy at 1.7% for FY22. The new budget took into account changes the commissioners asked Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg to make at the Truth in Taxation meeting on Dec. 9 and adds approximately $98,000 to the contingency for the county.

“I feel confident with this budget,” Stomberg said. “I think it will provide enough for operating expenses and our financial position, we’re in a good spot. I would recommend the 1.7%.”

The board agreed with Stomberg.

“I think that 1.7% is doable,” Board Chair Steve Ritter said. “Taxpayers are getting a deal and we’re still able to provide the services.”

In addition to setting the levy, the board approved the non-union pay range schedule for 2022 which included a 2.5% increase to the range over 2021.

After some discussion, the board also approved a salary increase of 2.5% for the county commissioners to $21,120 for 2022. However, per diem of $75 per meeting or $140 for two meetings a day and chairman allowance of $250 per month will remain the same. The board approved the resolution 4-1 with Commissioner Charlie Sanow casting the lone dissenting vote.

“Last year we did a 2% increase, it amounted to a $1 a day raise for commissioners that spend a lot of their time keeping taxes as low as possible, and I have never been chewed out so many times in my life,” Sanow said. “I’d rather not have the dollar than have people criticize me for having a $1 a day annual raise. I think it’s kind of pathetic. In all reality, it’s pretty sad. I sat at a restaurant trying to have supper with my wife one night and had a guy come over and jump all over me over $1 a day. For that, I’d rather go the next three years without a raise, and then you can find someone else to do the job when I’m done with my term.”

“As we sat here last year and talked about this and looked at all the surrounding counties in our district, we’re the largest population county, last year we would have had to have a 5% raise just to come up to average for the surrounding counties,” Commissioner Gary Crowley said. “And we’re the largest populated county. In the midst of things and the way the economy was, we just went with the 2%. I also use my personal cell phone for a lot of county business, and that is another cost that comes out of our pockets that is not reflected. If we’re doing 2.5% for the employees, I’m fine with that.”

Along with the wages, the board also approved a new 2022 fee schedule. The new schedule included changes to the camping fees (the removal of the septic use fee of $5 and an increase for firewood to $5 for 4 pieces) as well as winter storage rent for boats, cars, campers and watercraft (all fees will double for 2022 agreements). The hunting permit for deer or turkey hunting was eliminated for 2022.

There are also changes to the landfill solid waste fee, e-waste and mattress recycling fees. In the planning and zoning department, the fee for approved trapping of beaver affecting the county was increased to $100 per beaver to reflect a motion from April 2021. The sheriff’s office fees were also updated to reflect changes made at previous meetings.

The board heard a presentation from Jessica Welu from the SRDC concerning a grant the SRDC has applied for from the Federal EDA Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Program. The grant is to develop a regional trails plan for the nine counties in southwest Minnesota.

“The grant is to prioritize a trail project at a regional level and help get funding for those projects,” Welu said. “Currently, southwest Minnesota does not have a connected trail system. This grant would increase cooperation and coordination of the trails groups, gathering those groups on a quarterly basis and develop a connected trail system. A regional trails plan makes local projects more competitive for grant money.”

The hope is more regional trails would increase tourism and attract more people to the area. The EDA requested a $209,000 project that requires a 25% match. The SRDC Commission has committed to providing $14,800 toward the match and are asking each of the nine counties to commit $3,000 to the match. Lyon County approved the $3,000 for the grant match.

The board also heard from Brian Gniffke, a farmer near Cottonwood who brought to the board a discussion on paying damages to crops due to ditch repair. Repairs were made to JD 10 in May. The repairs were originally slated for fall of 2020 but were not completed. Gniffke told the board that he was told by a former Lyon County employee that he would be reimbursed for crop damages that were the result of the repairs being done, which amounted to about a half acre of land.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.