From the Commission Desk: Commission aims to be good steward of taxpayer dollars

Jean Bender, County Commission Chairperson

Since May, Minnehaha County has been in the budget process. The Commission believes it is important for the public to understand how Commissioners create the budget each year. 

Property taxes paid to the County Treasurer are split between different levels of local government. In past years, schools received 51 percent, cities received 28 percent, and Minnehaha County received 21 percent of property tax revenue. These figures are approximate and may vary slightly depending on where you live. 

An important factor in creating County budgets is the property tax freeze implemented by the legislature and Governor in 1995. This legislation capped the growth of property tax revenues to 3 percent or inflation, whichever is less. 

Public safety expenses outpace inflation by 3-4 times the rate of inflation and have driven budget increases in recent years. Public safety expenses comprise approximately 66 percent of the general fund budget.

Ninety-four percent of the Minnehaha County General Fund budget contains spending required by state statute (public safety, auditor, treasurer, property assessment, etc.), 3 percent is authorized by statute (human resources and IT), and 3 percent is discretionary spending. Even if discretionary spending was completely removed from the budget, challenges remain because of spending required by codified law. 

The County closely monitors revenue and expenditure trends. Given the uncertain economic times department heads and elected officials were asked to keep budget increases very limited. We are fortunate that so far, our property tax collections have tracked close to prior years but other sources of funding, such as bank franchise tax and interest income, are uncertain. Bank franchise tax figures for 2020 will not be provided to the County until January 2021 so it is important to budget conservatively. 

Similar to many employers, the County has seen an increase in health insurance expenses. The County is self-insured for health insurance which has proven to be a cost-effective way to manage these expenses. Unfortunately, over the last two years these costs outpaced inflation and are likely to increase again this year by approximately 15 percent. 

Commissioners welcome public input in these important budgeting decisions. As the budget process moves forward, the Commission will continue to keep a watchful eye on revenues and expenses in order to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.


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