<CENTER><B>County levy may go up 5 percent</B></CENTER>

By Sara Quam

The Rock County Board of Commissioners set the preliminary levy for 2001 at a 5-percent increase over last year, with hopes that they can shrink that figure before it's finalized.

As budget projections read, the county should need a 4.06-percent levy increase, or $130,028.

Kyle Oldre, county administrator, said, "I recommend you set the preliminary at 5 percent to allow flexibility. The board has shown a past practice of decreasing the levy, and after the auditor looks at it, we can change it to the 4.06 percent and below."

A state auditor will review last year's spending in sometime this month and determine how much the county dipped into reserves. Then the board will judge if it is enough to justify a higher increase in the levy this year to compensate.

Commissioner Ron Boyenga said, "There are a few [budget items] I'm sure we can reduce."

Oldre said, "There are a number of figures that the budget committee isn't comfortable with." He said setting the preliminary levy at a 5-percent increase will allow plenty of room for review.

Chairman Bob Jarchow said, "Time will help us, and I think five is a good ceiling. - There's still some wild cards out there."

Commissioner Ken Hoime said, "In the past, we've proven that we can lower it. - I would move that we set the preliminary levy at 5 percent, hoping that we can adjust downward."

The board passed the preliminary levy as state law requires. After the preliminary is set, the board can reduce but not increase it before finalizing it in December.

Law Enforcement Center

Jeff Nelson of the architectural firm Baldridge and Associates will continue to provide services to the county prior to the November bond for a remodeled Law Enforcement Center.

The county will pay Baldridge a fee of $9,700 for research, estimates and drawings for the proposed building.

Boyenga said, "So if the bond fails, we're out $10,000."

Commissioner Wendell Erickson said in return, "And if it passes, we're out more than that."

Commissioner Jane Wildung said, "I think that if we're going to go to the trouble to have the bond issue before the public, we should provide them with the information they need to make the decision."

Jarchow said, "We need to spend some money to get that information is what you're saying."

Commissioners have already heard from the public that the aesthetics of the planned remodeling will greatly influence their vote on the bond.

For that reason, the board wants Baldridge to provide quality visuals and basic plans that will fit within the $1-million budget so the public can visualize what it's voting for.

Erickson said, "I think we just about have to go ahead [and pay for the work from Baldridge]. - They may very well vote it down, but they should get the chance to know."

Boyenga cast the only vote against the fees for Baldridge.

Drivers testing station

After notification this year that the local driver's exam testing station will be closed due to low usage, Rock County has been lobbying to keep it open.

In Oldre's verbal communication with state officials, they have indicated that Rock County's station could remain open if it meets a list of requirements.

"There are some hoops to jump through," Oldre said.

The state wants Rock County to provide a secure space (file cabinet), a phone line and a T-1 line.

The T-1 line was a point of contention, but Oldre said if the tests were moved to the Human Services building, the station would have a direct link to a T-1 line.

The state currently pays $10 a month rent to use the Highway Department meeting room.

Wildung suggested that Oldre get the list of requirements in writing with an assurance that all testing stations are being asked to meet the same standard.

That would clarify for the board that Rock County isn't being singled out with those high demands in an effort to force closing of the testing station.

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