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Soldiers Grove budget decreases property tax
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The Soldiers Grove Village Board passed a 2015 general budget of $428,436 with a village tax levy of $25,150 at their regular board meeting last Thursday.

Both the levy and general budget expenditures were decreased from last year. In 2014, the general budget was $458,856 and the village tax levy was $33,723.

The budget was reduced this year and the tax levy went down because, among other things, a loan for a truck was paid off in last year’s village budget.

In terms of mil rates, this year the village’s portion of the mil rate will be 1.15. Last year, the village’s mil rate was 1.53. When all the units of government (school district, voc tech district, county and state) that are funded by property taxes are combined, a resident of the Village of Soldiers Grove will have a mil rate of 17.52. That’s down from a mil rate of 18.72 last year. The major reason for the decrease in the mil rate is the decreases in the tax levies of the village and the technical school district.

This year’s village mil rate of 1.15 means the owner of property with an equalized value of $100,000 would be taxed $115 for the village’s portion of property tax. A village resident will be taxed a mil rate of 17.52 to cover all of the units of government being funded by the property tax. This means the owner of property with an equalized value of $100,000 will pay $1,752 in total property taxes.

During a public hearing before the board meeting, Soldiers Grove librarian Cele Wolf and library board treasurer Russell Gilbert requested the board increase the library’s budget by $5,431 to $81,757 to pay for the ongoing computer maintenance services. When the budget was later approved with little discussion on a motion made by Jim Helgerson and a second by Vicki Campbell, the library’s request for additional funding was not included. The budget and tax levy as proposed passed unanimously. Simultaneously, water and sewer budgets were also passed. Both budgets contain small deficits. The water budget projects $102,059 in revenue and $104,500 in expenditures. The sewer budget projects $107,150 in revenue and$108,576 in expenditures.

The board also discussed the possibility of replacing four lift station pumps in the sewer system, which are problematic and often in need of service, with larger more durable pumps. The price of the new pumps would be $5,747 each.

While several village trustees, like Shayne Chapman and others, could see the sense of replacing the pumps, they questioned how much the pumps would cost delivered and installed. Soldiers Grove Public Works Director Brian Copus was told to investigate and report what the total cost of the installed new pumps would be.

Prior to the approval of the budget, the board discussed the rising cost of health insurance for village employees. Of particular concern was the doubling cost of the deductibles. The issue was would the village continue a policy of paying half of the deductible costs with the employee paying the other half. Single plan deductibles were $1,000 last year and family plan deductibles were $2,000. So the village’s share was up to $500 for individuals and up to $1,000 for families. If the village continued the policy of paying half the deductible their share would be up to $1,000 for individuals and up to $2,000 for families.

One proposal was to not pay anything toward the deductible, another was to continue to pay the half cost and a third proposal was to just pay up to the amounts of last year’s half even though the deductible amount had increased.

Vicki Campbell and Roy Davidson spoke against continuing to pay half of the increased deductible. Both noted that they individually were paying deductibles on their own health insurance policies.

Village trustee Paul Nicholson favored the policy of paying half.

“Now, we’re talking about real people’s lives,” Nicholson said to begin his remarks favoring continuing to pay half of the deductibles even though they had increased. Soldiers Grove Village President Jerry Moran moved to continue paying up to half of the deductibles, Helgerson seconded the motion and it passed.

Moran provided the board with a brief report on a meeting he attended about the possibility of building an assisted living facility in Soldiers Grove. Moran wanted to get a sense from the board if they favored such a project.

The village president also mentioned that the village might be asked to make an economic contribution to help make such a facility a reality. He said making funds available as a loan from the Soldiers Grove Community Development Corporation might be a possible way for the village to provide support for an assisted living project. The board seemed inclined to have Moran and the village pursue involvement with the development of the assisted living facility.

In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• approved the potential use of the Community Building for yoga classes with the condition it not be a profit-making business venture

• heard a fire department report endorsing having two signatures necessary on disbursements from the Red Coat account and one of those signatures being the village clerk

• were told the current balance in the Soldiers Grove CDC accounts was $79,115.52

• agreed to contract with Johnson Block and Company to conduct the village’s year-end audit

• approved giving village employees $100 Christmas bonuses