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Erik Burgess, Published August 28 2012

Clay County could avoid high tax hikes in 2013

MOORHEAD – Clay County commissioners should be able to curtail large tax increases in the 2013 budget thanks to increasing reserves.

Commissioners took their first look on Tuesday at the proposed 2013 budget, which for now includes a 7.64 percent overall increase in the levy. County Auditor Lori Johnson said that number is expected to go down by the time the levy and budget amounts are finalized on Sept. 15.

“I know that 7 percent is going to be cut at least in half,” Johnson said. Because the levy amount is so preliminary, Johnson said she hasn’t figured out how it would affect each taxpayer.

Overall, the county’s proposed tax level reviewed Tuesday would increase to $25,185,046 from $23,397,925 in 2012.

Increases in the social services reserve fund are part of the reason why that number likely will go down, Johnson said. Over the past couple of years, the reserve fund has grown and the county can now afford to make some cuts to social services and public health without affecting services, commissioners said Tuesday.

“I feel comfortable with the reserves,” Commissioner Jon Evert said. “They’re so much better than they were. I don’t think we should raise taxes in order to continue to build reserves.”

A 2012 budget update was also provided to the commission by County Administrator Brian Berg, who said the county is running under expenses.

“I think, as a whole, we’re in pretty darn good shape,” Berg said.

His update accounted for about the first six months of this year’s budget. The county’s four services that incur the largest expenditures – law enforcement, corrections, road and bridge and social services – are all running within budget at this point, Berg’s report shows.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518