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Published December 20 2011

Taxes could go up even with Clay levy drop of 3 percent

MOORHEAD – Clay County residents could see higher tax bills next year even with the county levy declining by more than 3 percent.

The final 2012 budget adopted Tuesday hacks more than $900,000 from county spending, but the cuts aren’t enough to make up for a state-funded incentive revoked last summer.

Budget cuts were across several county departments “to try to mitigate some of that increase that taxpayers were going to see,” said County Administrator Brian Berg.

The increase stems from action the state Legislature took this summer to revise property taxes, including eliminating a key program that forces county governments to pick up the slack.

Through a combination of spending cuts and denying new spending requests, Clay County will pick up a portion of the levy gap, but the rest will fall to property owners.

Earlier this fall, county officials said the impact of a tax increase would vary widely among residents because of a sliding scale in calculating property taxes in Minnesota.

But the necessary cuts to the county budget will force a different impact on residents.

“You simply can’t cut nearly $1 million out of the budget without it affecting services,” Berg said. “But we tried to do it in the least visible way, so we can maintain service to the best level we can.”

The majority of cuts came from the Social Services and Public Health funds, Berg said.