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County board proposes 3.65 percent tax increase

Otter Tail County residents will see their property taxes rise by 3.65 percent next year, if a preliminary levy set last week holds true.

County commissioners approved the 2014 levy at a meeting last Tuesday. According to law, the preliminary amount may be reduced before being finalized in December, but cannot go any higher.

Residents will have the opportunity to provide input on the levy during a public meeting at the county Government Services Center in Fergus Falls on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.

The proposed levy will raise a total of $34.24 million for the county, up from 2013’s $33.04 million.

The increase would be used to beef up the county’s capital improvement fund, and would also go toward governmental services, housing and redevelopment, various Lake Improvement Districts and the Viking Library Service.

The impact on individual property owners has not yet been detailed.

“The impact to specific properties within Otter Tail County will vary, based upon the proposed levy increase and changes in property values and classifications,” said County Auditor Wayne Stein.

While county taxpayers would contribute close to $34 million, state and federal contributions will increase the county’s total budget to an estimated $80 million.

Of that total, human services gets about $17.3 million, public safety $12.2 million, and general government operations approximately $10.8 million. Highway funding is close to $22.8 million.

Major budget and levy areas include capital improvement, debt service, county ditch maintenance, law enforcement, licenses, roads and bridges and other services.

Residents in rural areas who don’t have their own city libraries see their taxes support the Viking Library System. Those who live in larger communities pay for library services through city taxes, the second leg of the property tax structure. Residents throughout the county also pay school district taxes, a third leg of the tax structure.

County leaders say they are doing everything they can to hold down costs. They also say they’re doing their best to meet the basic needs of county residents.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent