Residents have a chance to give their input on Stearns County's proposed 2010 levy and budget next week at the County's Truth-in-Taxation (TNT) Hearing.
The TNT will be held Tuesday, Dec. 1, beginning at 6 p.m. in the County Board Room. This date is a change from previous years. Normally, the TNT was always held the first Thursday of December, but statutory changes allowed the hearing to take place in conjunction with a regular Board Meeting as long it began after 6 p.m. The Dec. 1, regularly scheduled Stearns County Board of Commissioners meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Board Meeting or the TNT hearing will not be televised live on Cable Channel 19. Both will be Web cast live on the Stearns County Web site at www.co.stearns.mn.us, and will be re-aired on cable stations across the County, including Channel 19.
All property owners in Stearns County should have just received a truth-in taxation notice in the mail. The notice details taxes paid for 2009 and proposed taxes for 2010.
At the TNT, Stearns County staff will walk through next year's budget and the taxation process and citizens will be allowed to give their comments. The TNT hearing is an opportunity for county officials to explain to residents what can be a confusing tax process, to help them understand how their taxes are determined and how the county spends those tax dollars to serve the public.
Facing another year of extremely tight finances, Stearns County Commissioners approved a fiscally responsible preliminary budget for 2010. Next year's budget doesn't call for any increases in spending; in fact, the budget is down 13 percent from last year, or $18.7 million, from $137 million in 2009 to $118 million proposed in 2010.
Although the budget is down nearly $19 million, a loss of revenue - $20.5 million in federal/state grants and revenues for services and another $1.4 million reduction in state aid - the levy was forced to rise. Unfortunately, this loss in revenue translates to a 4.5 percent increase in the tax levy.
For more details on the 2010 budget, go to Stearns County's Web site at www.co.stearns.mn.us. You can also get a detailed budget by going to the Administrator's Office in the Stearns County Administration Center, Courthouse Square, downtown St. Cloud.
The Board of Commissioners will approve the final budget and levy at the Tuesday, December 15th Stearns County Board of Commissioners meeting. At that time, the budget cannot go any higher, but it can be reduced.