The Becker County Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary 2020 levy increase of 2.99% at its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 17. That percentage can be lowered, but not increased, when the board sets the final levy in December.

That levy hike of just under 3% would raise an additional $638,028 next year, enough to handle all major budget needs, said commissioner Larry Knutson.

Prior to the vote, commissioner John Okeson said he would prefer to see a 3.5% maximum levy hike, and then possibly lower it in December. That would allow some flexibility to consider additional needs raised by department heads, he said.

“There’s no reason to go higher than everything we asked for,” Knutson said. The board also considered a lower maximum levy hike, before splitting the difference and agreeing unanimously on the 2.99%.

That puts the preliminary 2020 levy at about $21.95 million, up from about $21.31 million this year, according to Becker County Administrator Mike Brethorst.

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The separate Becker County Economic Development Authority levy was set at $140,000. Knutson noted that the intent over the past few years has been to draw the EDA reserves down, but they remain essentially unchanged because revenue has come in from various sources, such as the sale of a house, he said.

In other action Tuesday

  • The board accepted an off-highway vehicle enforcement grant from the state for $14,644 over two years, and agreed to sell 20 used firearms (10 shotguns, five rifles and five pistols) on sealed bid to the winning registered federal firearms dealer.
  • Commissioners also agreed to raise daily boarding rates at the jail from $55 to $57.50 next year and $60 the following year, matching a state rate increase. And the board raised the cost of officer security from $55 an hour to $100 an hour for sheriff’s office services like assisting in house moving and similar work. The Detroit Lakes Police Department charges $100 an hour, and the State Patrol is close to that, Sheriff Todd Glander said.
  • The minimum security jail building is back on the market, after a purchase agreement fell through on the buyer’s end, concerning property it planned to sell to buy the county building, Brethorst said. The former workhouse building was put up for sale by the county earlier this summer for $690,000.
  • Brethorst also reported that structural fire damage to the Becker County Transfer Station was not as bad as originally feared, and noted that a new district judge and a new judicial referee will be quartered at the Becker County Courthouse. The judge will split his or her time between two districts.