The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners has approved a preliminary gross (net) tax levy of $40.15 million for 2019. This represents a proposed 3.9 percent tax increase for county residents compared to the 2018 budget.

The state of Minnesota previously dropped county aid, resulting in a 2.58 percent loss for Otter Tail County.

Even so, the 3.9 percent proposed increase for county taxpayers is below the average of 4.05 percent for counties which are members of the Minnesota Inter-County Agency (MICA).

“The proposed levy of $40.15 million is only 36.5 percent of the overall county budget of close to $110 million,” notes County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein. “That’s because most of the dollars come from the state and federal governments.”

The five-person county board set a date for a public hearing on the proposed county budget which will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at the Otter Tail County Government Services Center in northwest Fergus Falls, near the former RTC campus.

The county board will make a final decision on Tuesday, Dec. 18. By law, the board can decrease the amount but cannot raise the increase from the 3.9 percent agreed to on a preliminary basis.

Stein said the overall budget for 2019 includes the general fund, special revenue funds and budgeted debt service.

Included in the budget are county taxpayer funds for community services (public health, human services, probation, veterans’ services and county extension), public works (highways, land and resource management and solid waste), law enforcement (including sheriff’s office), and internal services (administration, human services, facilities operations, information technology, geographic information systems, emergency management and economic development).

Additional money is provided for the auditor-treasurer’s office, licensing, elections, county attorney, assessor, recorder and land services.

The financial and accounting division of the Otter Tail County Auditor-Treasurer Office, headed by Stein, with the assistance of all county departments, is responsible for the preparation of the annual county budget.

As mentioned, final decisions are made by the five members of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners in December of each year, for the following calendar year.

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