Preliminary levy increased over 6.5 percent

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

On Sept. 27 the five-person Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary net property tax levy of $50.7 million for 2023. This represents a proposed  6.54 percent net tax levy increase compared to the 2022 net tax levy. 

This net levy tax is below the levels of many counties and municipalities in the region. 

The 6.54 percentage is a comparison between payable years 2022 and 2023. The percentage does not reflect the percentage that individual property owners might experience. That  percentage is driven by additional factors. 

As the tax capacity increases through growth in new businesses, new residents and new homes, the share of taxes paid is smaller.

County Board Chairman Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls said, “It is a relief to see minimal impact to the taxpayer because we have grown the economy of our taxable base which has been a goal of the county board. We work very hard at this.”

After the adoption of the proposed net tax levy, the county board has the authority to decrease the proposed net tax levy. However, the board has limited statutory authority to raise the net tax levy increase from the percentage agreed to when the preliminary net tax levy was adopted.

The entire preliminary budget for 2023 is approximately $135 million, down $2 million from 2022. 

“Otter Tail County has had the ability to increase tax capacity and at the end of the day we know prices aren’t going down,” said Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids. “It is critical to continue to grow the tax base.”

County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein said that approximately 37 percent of the estimated budget is funded with property tax dollars. The additional needed funding comes from the state and federal governments.

Adds County Commissioner Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood: “I would like to recognize how many of our departments have seen the impacts of eight percent inflation and took reasonable restraint to work within the parameters of our budget. The efforts to grow the tax capacity has had significant impact.”

Included in the budget for 2023 are county taxpayer funds for the following:

• health and wellness (public health, human services, veterans’ services and county extension)

• economic growth and community (highways, land and resource management, parks and trails and solid waste)

• safety and justice (emergency management, probation and law enforcement)

• internal services (administration, human resources, facilities operations, information technology and geographic information systems).

The county board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, at the Government Services Center in Fergus Falls to receive public comments regarding the 2023 budget and levy. This will be prior to final adoption of the 2023 budget and levy on Dec. 20, 2022.