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Dakota County budget at $307 million

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Doing "less with less."

That is how Dakota County Finance Director Matt Smith described the recommended 2011 Dakota County budget to the Dakota County Board of Commissioners this week.

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The recommended budget is $307.1 million, compared to the 2010 budget of about $368 million. The recommended levy for the 2011 is $129,402,073 (the amount property owners pay), or an .8 percent increase over this year's levy of $128.4 million.

Smith said the budgets for both county operations and capital improvement program (CIP) will be smaller. The operations portion reductions are reflected for the second year in a row as the lower revenues are projected.

"Despite economists' view that the 'Great Recession' officially came to a close in 2010, the economic conditions that influence the county's budget continue to be weak," said Smith.

The State of Minnesota is facing a $6 billion shortfall for its next biennium. The Minnesota Legislature will address the issues when it convenes in January.

The impacts of the state budget crisis will be felt on the recommended Dakota County budget.

"Because the state is expected to make significant permanent reductions in revenues transferred to counties and other local governments as part of its overall budget solution, the recommended county budget makes corresponding permanent adjustments to spending to align with the new lower level of state revenue expected," said Smith.

The cost of staffing the county operation continues to grow, Smith said. Much of it is due to the increasing cost of employee health insurance. These costs are reflected in the recommended budget.

The budget work for this coming year been one directed at prioritizing services. Staff time was devoted to reviewing county services and programs relative to the county's strategic objectives, said Smith. The County Board offered its input as well.

"As a result, the 2011 budget attempts to protect the highest-priority services while reducing or eliminating activities and expenditures of lower relative value," said Smith. Some services have been modified or eliminated, some staff positions eliminated and transitioned, and grants to outside service providers reduced or eliminated.

When the maximum property levy was adopted in September, the County Board pointed to the declining tax base, rising foreclosures, and continuing high unemployment rate among its property owners.

Due to changes in the tax base, a 0.8 percent increase in the levy in 2011 would actually result in slightly lower county taxes for median priced residential properties.

The County Board is scheduled to adopt the final budget by Dec. 14. County budget workshops are scheduled for the remainder of this week, with the Truth in Taxation hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Dakota County Board Room, Administration Center, 1590 Highway 55.

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