The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners held its annual public hearing for the upcoming year's preliminary budget and levy last Tuesday afternoon and evening.

County Coordinator Karen Brown gave a brief summary of the past year's activities. The local, state and federal governments collaboration involved with the Southeast Minnesota Veterans' Cemetery was highlighted.

The county continued to address roads and bridges needing maintenance and remodeled the Highway Administration building. A successful grant application was received for the County-State Aid Highway 1.

Also, due to the implementation of two federal programs through the Affordable Care Act and MnChoices, 4.5 full-time equivalent positions were added to the Community Sevices and Social Services department. Fifty percent of those position salaries are reimbursed by the federal government and one position was hired specifically to enhance revenue streams to the department.

The county implemented several new technologies. An electronic document management system is nearing full implementation in the community services department for the social services division. The sheriff's office upgraded to a new record management system and also made e-charging possible through further tech upgrades. The county airport also implemented credit-card fuel sales and a courtesy car.

Brown said the county will continue to support efforts to open the veterans' cemetery. Other county goals for 2014 include using LEAN process training where each step in operations is examined for redundancy and eliminated if necessary. It was noted that over 50 percent of the county workforce Is over the age of 50, which Brown said meant succession planning would continue.

The board encouraged input from the community. No public comments were received during the public hearing.

Budget and levy

In the review of the preliminary 2014 budget and levy, it was shown that preliminary total expenditures would increase roughly $2.6 million from 2013. Though reductions are expected in general government and health, increases of over $1 million dollars each could be seen in highway and conservation of natural resource spending.

Revenue is expected to increase roughly $2.6 million dollars as well, which is expected in order to balance the budget. The county expects to see the state paid portion of its tax levy increase from $800,000 to just over $1 million. Other increases may be seen in charges for services and intergovernmental revenues from the state and federal governments.

The county portion of the tax levy is expected to decrease by around $150,000. With a sales tax exemption going into effect at the start of 2014, the county is expecting to save roughly $96,000.

There is an expected $147,000 increase in revenue capture to occur in social services. An increase of roughly $1.3 million is expected to occur in the highway department for construction and equipment costs.

The roughly $1 million to be spent on the Greenleafton community septic system will have no impact on the levy since grants will pay for 75 percent of it with the rest coming from user fees for loan payback.

The preliminary budget for 2014 is $25,464,025 with a levy of $8,435,205. Overall, the county is projecting a budget increase of 11.3 percent, but with no overall levy increase. Per capita levied taxes would hold at roughly $404.

The final 2014 budget and levy will be considered for approval on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the regular county board meeting.

In highlighting the county's performance measurement outcomes, Brown noted that no 2013 survey was distributed.

Road projects

It was announced that the segments of County Road 118, which run through Forestville State Park, were being negotiated to be turned over to the DNR. The segment includes three bridges and roughly two miles of road. The road has been closed since 2008.

There was discussion on possible 2014 road projects. The county is looking to do full-depth reclamations on County Road 14 between County Roads 1 and 5. They are also looking to do similar work on County Road 9 between County Roads 14 and 44.

County Engineer Ron Gregg said he was putting together a timeline of when roads in the county were last worked on and what kind of maintenance was completed.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud recommended closing the bridge paralleling County Road 5 because of its condition.

Commissioner Kaase suggested the residents along that road be engaged in conversation so they would understand the county's reasoning for closing it.

Other business

In other matters, the board handled the following issues.

• The board approved the addition of a current eligibility worker within community services to the telecommuting program. The county currently has three telecommuting staff within social services and Social Services Manager Gail Bunge told the board it increased efficiency in handling workload. The board was also told the department could see at least 400 additional cases due to the current healthcare reform and medical assistance expansion.

• The board approved final payments for the county airport fuel system installation and 2013 road striping. Minnowa Construction was awarded the bid for the bridge replacement project on Grosbeak Road. The project is estimated to take a month.

• An agreement with Tyler Technologies, Inc., was approved to host iDoc5 software, which will allow public web-access to recorded documents via credit-card payment. Fees for hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annually access were also approved. A person can subscribe to the service by calling the recorder's office at (507) 765-3852.

• The commissioners were updated on the hiring process for a new social services manager and intermittent deputy. Human Resources Director Kristina Kohn said recommendations would be coming forward at the next county board meeting.

• The board approved the hire of a temporary custodian at half-time for four months.

• The board approved payment of $216 to Charles Myhre for gopher trapping at the airport.

The county commissioners will meet on Tuesdays, Dec. 3, Dec. 17 and Dec. 24 for their December board meetings.