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County residents weigh in on proposed 2016 tax levy

County residents took the opportunity last Tuesday to voice opinions about the proposed 2016 tax levy during a gathering at the County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.

County residents took the opportunity last Tuesday to voice opinions about the proposed 2016 tax levy during a gathering at the County Government Services Center in Fergus Falls.

Proposed is a 4.7 percent tax increase for 2016. That’s based on a net levy of $37.1 million for 2016.

County commissioners will take public comments into consideration when they adopt the final 2016 tax levy at 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

On Sept. 22 the county board adopted a preliminary gross county property tax levy of $38.24 million for 2016. Later, county program aid from the state of Minnesota and other factors resulted in the net levy of $37.1 million.

The Financial and Accounting Division of the County Auditor-Treasurer Office is the chief financial and accounting office for Otter Tail County.

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“This division, with the assistance of all county departments, is responsible for the preparation of the annual budget,” said County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein.  “Then it’s up to the five-person county board of commissioners to adopt a final budget.”

The County Budget Committee previously met to discuss and review in general terms the levy and budgetary guidelines. The committee is comprised of Stein and his staff members, county commissioners Doug Huebsch of Perham and Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids and County Administrator Larry Krohn.

Also reviewed on Dec. 1 during the public meeting were proposed department budgets and various agency requests.

Stein reported that the county road and bridge net levy for 2016 will be $3.4 million. “Other money for highway funding comes from the state and federal governments,” said Stein. “A half-cent county sales tax for roadway projects will commence in 2016.”

County human services, which also receives state and federal dollars, will have a county 2016 net tax levy of $7.4 million.

Net tax capacity comes from three major sources in Otter Tail County. Seasonal (residential and commercial) amounts to 30 percent, residential (homestead) comes in at 28 percent and agriculture is third at 24 percent.

More about county preliminary budget

County expenditures, in addition to roads, bridges and human services, include but are not limited to general government, public safety, health, culture and recreation, conservation of natural resources, economic development, library services, veterans affairs and debt service.

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Some increases in the county budget for 2016 reflect more funding needed for elections in even-numbered years. Election funding in 2015 totaled $52,100 compared to $210,694 that will be needed in 2016.

Total net county tax capacity based on all property is approximately $88.3 million for payable year 2016 compared to $84.5 million for payable year 2015.

The county board, in addition to approving a preliminary budget and tax levy for county government services, also adopted proposed Lake Improvement District property tax levies for calendar year 2016.

LID levies for 2016 include the Pelican Group of Lakes, Pine Lakes, McDonald, Kerbs and Paul Lakes and Big McDonald.

All county residents, excluding those who live in Fergus Falls, Perham and a section of Wadena which is situated in eastern Otter Tail County, will also pay a portion of county property taxes to fund the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

Residents of the three aforementioned cities will pay for HRA funding through their city-authorized Housing and Redevelopment Authority levies.

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