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County tax levy to drop: Preliminary numbers show 1.4% decrease

The Becker County property tax levy will drop by about 1.4 percent next year, as the county holds the line on spending and benefits from more state funding.

The county’s total budget is about $42 million.

It helps that the Minnesota Legislature increased Becker County’s County Participation Aid by $241,000 next year, for a total of more than $1 million.

It also helps that the Legislature now exempts local government from state sales tax, which will save Becker County another $285,000 next year.

The state has imposed levy limits on local government for next year. Becker County could have raised additional levy revenue of $471,300 under those limits, but opted not to collect any of it.

The county budget process also benefitted from a surplus of several million dollars in the Health and Human Services Department this year, caused by conservative budgeting last year, according to County Administrator Jack Ingstad.

“The levy can be moved anywhere it’s needed,” he said. “The board can move reserves to other funds as needed.”

The county plans to spend more than $1 million in reserves on one-time projects next year.

Expenditures funded by reserves include architectural planning for a public works facility. The complex itself will likely be paid for through bonding, Ingstad said.

The county will spend about $300,000 on its new Armer radio system for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency responders.

The county hopes to land about $250,000 in grants to help pay for the switch to the Armer system. It is also budgeting $450,000 in E-911 reserve funds for the system.

It will spend another $16,500 from the E-911 reserve fund for reverse 911 via the Code Red system.

Other one-time expenditures from county reserves include:

  • $35,000 for recreation planning.
  • $50,000 for information technology enhancements.
  • $69,000 for jail improvements.
  • An emergency dispatch center powered by an emergency generator will be created in a small room in the courthouse.

The budget for most departments will be similar to this year’s budget.

 The County Board will hold a public hearing on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. to present the proposed 2014 budget.

“It’s a last chance (for commissioners) to react and change the budget,” Ingstad said.

The final 2014 tax levy and budget will be set at the Dec. 17 county board meeting.