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County tax levy increases by 4 percent

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On Tuesday, county commissioners approved a four percent increase to the county's net property tax levy, payable in 2013. The decision followed a Budget and Levy Public Hearing held Dec. 5 in Fergus Falls.

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The new levy of $33.04 million is four percent more than the current levy of $31.77 million. This increase includes money for governmental services along with funding for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and various Lake Improvement Districts.

It will amount to an increase of roughly $20 to $30 for most homeowners in Perham and New York Mills. A resident in either of these communities with a home estimated at $100,000 (market value) will pay $17.58 more in county property taxes next year compared to this year. The average home in this area is valued at around $120,000.

Residents in rural areas that don't have their own city libraries will pay slightly more to support the Viking Library System. In these areas, county taxes would be $17.85 more than in 2012 (for a home with an estimated market value of $100,000).

"The percent of change in county property taxes that individual properties will experience depends upon changes in other factors involved in the tax calculation process such as valuations, classifications, class rates and the county tax rate," said County Auditor Wayne Stein.

Residents throughout the county also pay city or township taxes, school district taxes and special taxing district taxes as a part of their overall property tax bill.

County commissioners, during the public hearing, said they and county department heads are doing everything they can to hold down costs. An example is the ongoing hiring freeze, established in 2008.

"We do our best to meet the basic needs of county residents, one of those being maintenance of county highways," said Commissioner Lee Rogness.

Maintaining county highways on an annual basis is costly, with the 2013 budget including $18.3 million for that purpose alone.

Other major budget and levy areas include human services, public health, capital improvement, debt service, county ditch maintenance, law enforcement, licenses, roads and bridges and other services.

County taxes account for less than half of the total 2013 county budget. State and federal contributions, along with other revenue sources, will fund the total budget up to $71.3 million.

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