Archived Story

County approves 11.5% max tax increase

Published 11:02am Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Commercial, ag to be hit most by levy hike

Agricultural and commercial property owners could feel the brunt of the county’s preliminary decision to tax for up to $1.84 million more revenue in 2013.

The county board voted 5-0 Tuesday to set its maximum 2013 levy increase at 11.53 percent.

However, county board members vowed to keep trying to lower the tax increase before December, when it will finalize the budget and levy.

“The budget is still a work in progress, and we’re going to be working to find other areas where we can make cuts — anything to get this budget down to a more reasonable level,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said. The county can still lower the levy, but it cannot increase it.

The additional $1.84 million in tax dollars would increase the 2013 county levy to $18.9 million, compared to the $16.2 million levy in 2012, when the levy increased 4.5 percent.

Last week, county officials said the levy increase could be as high as 18 percent if all budget requests went through.

The tax increase won’t mean an 11.53 percent across the board for taxpayers. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said agricultural and commercial property owners’ taxes will likely increases more than 11.53 percent, while residential property owners’ taxes will likely increase less than 11.53 percent. However, county officials did not have information on how much taxes will increase for specific types of property.

The increase will be a double blow for commercial property owners, as many are already anticipating the effects of new commercial appraisals finalized over the summer that take effect in 2013.

Taxing factors

Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said seven key issues out of the county’s hands are responsible for driving $1.3 million of the $1.84 million levy increase, including the loss of about $404,000 in County Program Aid, about $354,000 added costs for out of home placements and the cost of two additional social workers for about $90,000.

“We’re being prudent in the way we’re running things, but we do not have control over these seven items,” Gabrielson said, adding the costs are either mandated by the state or are services that have to be provided.

Without those issues, the county would only have to increase the levy by about 3.3 percent, which Gabrielson said would mostly address annual increases to the cost of services.

Oscarson said the finance committee — which consists of Gabrielson and Reinartz — was thrifty in its handling of the budget. Only one deputy position was approved out of about four requests to fill new positions in county departments (not including the two social workers added earlier this year). The finance committee also froze all funds paid to outside agencies.

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