MUSCUT: The Mille Lacs County Board was presented with the full proposed budget and levy for 2018 during the Truth in Taxation hearing the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the historic Mille Lacs County Courthouse.
The proposed county budget is set at $41,217,226 with the proposed property tax levy set at $15,449,170. That is a 5.78 percent increase over 2017.
The budget itself is lower than 2017 due in part to the decrease in employee health insurance, county administrator Pat Oman said. However, residents will still be paying higher property taxes in 2018 than they did in 2017.
There are five main drivers pushing the increase, according to Oman. The first item list he provided is that the county has maintained a “significant cost in out-of-home placement expenses county-wide,” Oman said. He added the county has worked to secure legislative reimbursement grants to support out-of-home placement expenses.
Oman added the county is mandated by the state to “pay for certain services, such as out-of-home placement of children ordered by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal court despite having no control over the process and no mechanism for dealing with the exponential cost increases.”
However, Oman also stated the Band is working on becoming an “Initiative Tribe to support their own out-of-home placement.”
One of the largest drivers, Oman said, is the significant increase in health insurance renewal rates for public employees. In an effort to offset the county’s expense, the county has switched health insurance companies for 2018 and will be on the Public Employee Insurance Program. That will generate a savings of $310,000 to the county budget.
Wage increases are also a driving factor in the increase of the levy. The county “is contractually obligated to increase employee bargaining units wages,” Oman said. Those wage negotiations are currently in progress, he added.