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County approves 4.94 percent gross levy increase

On Dec. 28, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners approved a county gross levy increase of 4.94 percent.

As to how the hike will affect county property owners, County Auditor Wayne Stein explained that taxes on a Pelican Rapids home valued at $234,500 will go from $747 in 2010 to $800 in 2011, an increase of $53.

The gross levy of $32.95 million for 2011 is up from $31.40 million in 2010.

Otter Tail County ranks 57th out of 87 counties in Minnesota in taxes per capita.

The county's budget is facing some increases in expenditures, Stein said, including a slight increase in public safety (law enforcement, courts and probation) from $10.70 million in 2010 to $10.78 million in 2011.

Decreases are in place for highways and human services. The 2011 highway budget is $17.69 million, down from $18.35 million in 2010. For human services, the budget for this coming year will be $17.06 million, down from $17.56 million this year.

According to a recent article in the Fergus Falls Journal, county commissioners reiterated at the meeting that the board is working in cooperation with departments to hold down costs and always seeks input from county residents.

A hiring freeze is in place and plans are in the works to lower the number of county departments. There are also ongoing efforts to collaborate with neighboring counties to provide various services to county residents.

Commission Chairman Roger Froemming said less money is coming from the state and the county always works to keep taxes as low as possible.

"We're working to ensure that county employees work as efficiently as possible while keeping taxes as low as possible," he said.

On Tuesday, the county board also approved a net property tax levy of $416,000 to be spread against the taxable property of the Otter Tail County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.