The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 2, 2012

Waseca taxes look familiar

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

WASECA — The property taxes on a typical home in Waseca next year figure to vary little from this year’s as school and government entities continue to try to hold the line on annual levies.

The taxes on an average market-value $138,500 home, $2,095 this year, would be adjusted to $2,042 in 2013. The negligible variance is mirrored in the city, school district and proposed county levies for next year, all of which look to remain relatively unchanged.

But if the devil is always in the details, it’s also in the offing, at least where county revenues are concerned.

For the second straight year, the County Board’s proposed 2013 budget calls for it to draw upon a huge chunk from county reserves.

Board Member Jim Peterson said the panel drew on $400,000 in reserves last year to maintain county service levels, and the 2013 proposed budget calls for a $600,000 siphoning.

All of which has commissioners warily looking down the road — a road pocked by ongoing cuts in the state’s aid allotments to local governments.

“The biggest problem we have is if we keep going into reserves, sooner or later it’s like that TV ad — pay me now, or pay me later,” Peterson said.

And later may be coming sooner than people think, he said, an outcome that necessarily will mean tax increases.

“Everybody’s so afraid of raising taxes, but I DO want roads,” he said. “And how do you do that without money?”

Meantime, the county continues to make cutbacks where it can. Trouble is, Peterson said, with services already cut to the bone the only “fat” left may be county jobs.

“If not this year, then next year.”

The County Board’s preliminary budget for 2013 calls for an 8.36 percent increase over last year, a figure that may go down (by law it can’t go up) before the final budget is due later this month.