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Taxes going down? Otter Tail County board likely to reduce 2018 tax levy

There was good news for county taxpayers during the annual levy and budget hearing held Tuesday evening, Dec. 12, at the Otter Tail County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.

County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein and county commissioners told members of the general public that the percent of levy increase from 2017 to 2018 will likely drop from 4.86 percent to 3.48 percent.

A final decision will be made during the regular meeting of the county board on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 9:30 a.m.

“The overall county budget for 2018 is $105.1 million, but due to federal and state aid we only need to levy for $39.1 million for this coming year,” said Stein.

The population of Otter Tail County is currently 57,297.

“Most county residents are well informed about services provided,” said Stein, “which include human services, public health, road and bridge maintenance, capital improvements and other services.”

County budget committee membership includes County Auditor-Treasurer Stein, County Commissioners Doug Huebsch of Perham and Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids, County Administrator John Dinsmore, division directors who supervise the day-to-day operations of county government and external agencies which have county government expertise.

“The needs of Otter Tail County vary on a year-to-year basis,” said Stein. “Examples include changes in technology, building improvements such as recent enhancements needed for the county jail, updating election equipment and purchases of new county vehicles.”

A large portion of the 2018 county budget is $37.6 million for public works. Funding is needed for highways, land and resource management and solid waste.

A total of $27.6 million is earmarked for community services, which includes public health, human services, probation, veterans’ services and county extension.

Additional taxes added to property taxes can include funds needed for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Lake Improvement Districts.

“The taxable market value in Otter Tail County for 2018 is $9.9 billion,” said Stein. “County board members pledge to only levy for dollars that are truly needed to maintain the wellbeing of county residents.”