State aid, roads dominate public tax meeting
By Daniel Arens
Controversy was directed at the state legislature and industry organizations as well as the county commission at a special public hearing concerning a proposed 5 percent mil levy increase.
Questions revolved around what the increase, which will be paid for by property taxes, will go towards. The county commissioners replied that the increase is for regular county functions and maintenance, not for road projects or the courthouse and jail expansion.
Commissioner Bill Tveit tried to put the 5 percent increase in perspective by relating it to roughly $36 in increased taxes for an entire year for property assessed a value of $200,000. The increase figure is also not finalized, as County Auditor Shana Brost is still waiting for state figures to determine what the actual mil levy will equal. The proposed 5 percent mil levy increase is the maximum number that the county will request.
Many subdivisions and departments that worked under the county have requested an increase in their budgets. Also, the cost of providing employee health insurance and the expenses that go into an election year have contributed to the raise.
When asked why an increase was not put to popular vote, the commission replied that it has always had the authority to make its own decisions related to budgeting. Special projects like the courthouse expansion are different than routine budgeting, which was why that project was left to a county vote.
Tveit said that most of the expenses were out of the commission’s control, with 80 percent of costs to pay county employee salaries, and other costs mandated by the state government. Another commissioner, Duane Scheurer, said that the commission has already made cuts where they could, but that they must ultimately pay for the expenses, even those beyond county control. Residents responded that budgeting still requires you to stay within your budget.