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County budget shrinks, taxes should go down

There is some good news for Dakota County property taxpayers. When they receive their property tax statements in spring, they could see a slight reduction in the county portion of their property taxes. 

At this week’s regular meeting of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, county administrator Brandt Richardson presented a recommended 2014 budget of $332.75 million. That budget funds 1,744.71 full-time equivalent positions.

The recommended levy is the same amount as the preliminary levy set by the board in September — $128,506,313, or a .5 percent reduction from the approved 2013 levy of $129,152,073.

For the four previous years, the county has cut 133 FTE positions and approximately $40 million a year from its operating budget. During this time, reductions were prioritized in order to continue the highest-value programs and services. Personnel cost pressures from rising employee health insurance premiums were addressed through plan design changes and a move to self-insurance. The 2014 budget includes significant new investments in parks and trails, transportation and telecommunication infrastructure, and staff positions in critical service areas. 

The commissioners will hold budget workshop meetings this week. A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 3, at the Administration Center in Hastings. Final adoption of the budget and levy is expected Dec. 17.