After axing a proposed 3.9% hike, the Becker County Board approved a maximum 3.5% hike in the 2022 tax levy at its Sept. 21 meeting.

That’s the highest increase since 2018, when a 3.6% increase was approved.

The hike approved last year was 2.7%. In 2020 it was 2.9%, and in 2019 it was 3.3%.

From 2013 to 2017 the increase was under 3% each year, in some cases well under. In 2014, the levy actually saw a small drop.

Commissioner Ben Grimsley balked at the original levy hike of nearly 4%.

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“I want to knock it down,” he said at the meeting. “I don’t think the levy has ever gone up this much (during his time on the board). We have to live within our means.”

He said he preferred a levy hike closer to 3%, and later seconded Commissioner Larry Knutson’s motion to set the hike at 3.5%.

The board had to find about $100,000 in budget savings to cut the proposed hike from 3.9% to 3.5%. It accomplished that by removing a $74,000 recreation fund, as well as $30,000 from the Human Services fund. (Human Services Director Denise Warren was able to find a way to replace that $30,000 without using county levy dollars.)

The county levy hike will bring in around $800,000 in new revenue. The overall levy will bring in more than $23 million.

On the budget side, the overall health and human services fund was increased by about $171,000, or 2.4%.

The public safety fund increased by $350,000, or 4.3%, and the revenue fund increased by $437,000, or 12.8%.

At the same meeting, the Becker County Economic Development Authority of $124,350 was approved for 2022, unchanged from this year.

A bit of a kerfuffle surrounded approval of the Becker Soil & Water Conservation District budget, which includes county funding. The county ended up removing its annual $8,712 towards an aquatic invasive species coordinator in the district office, because state funding has increased to cover the loss.

The county will still provide more than $670,000 toward the district’s $1.8 million in total revenues. The rest will come from the state (which will provide $632,000) the federal government ($100,000) local governments ($325,000) and charges for service will bring in the final $100,000.

On the expenditure side, total expenses going to county projects is $331,000, with a combined $360,000 or so going to local, state and district projects.

Becker County’s final tax levy and budget will be set at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 9.