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Beltrami County Board: No increase in property tax levy

BEMIDJI – Beltrami County taxpayers will see no increase to their county taxes next year.

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a 2013 budget equal to that of 2012’s budget.

“I see a real opportunity to lighten the load on folks,” said Commissioner Jim Lucachick in a work session prior to the regular meeting.

The budget for 2013 was set at $17,486,013.

The 0 percent levy increase was made possible through the use of reserves. The county has about $42 million in reserves, or roughly nine months’ worth, according to Kay Mack, auditor/treasurer and interim county administrator.

Lucachick said the use of those funds made sense since the state recommends a minimum of six months’ worth of reserves.

“We could even go 1, 2 or 3 (percent) negative in my mind and we’d have plenty of reserves,” he said.

His fellow commissioners agreed with the 0 percent increase, but cautioned one another to be watchful of happenings at the state Capitol this coming session as legislators could further cut Payments In Lieu of Taxes and County Program Aid, two programs through which the county receives revenue.

“I do support the 0 levy but I think we need to be paying attention to what higher governments might be doing in the next legislative session,” said Commissioner Joe Vene said, noting that the state could face a $1 billion deficit by mid-summer. “I think we need to be aware of that.”

Commissioner Jack Frost said PILT and CPA comprise about 12 percent of the county’s revenue.

“I’ll go along with it (the 0 percent levy increase), but I’d be more inclined to say 1 percent … because of that uncertainty,” he said.