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2018 Beltrami County budget, tax levy approved

BEMIDJI--Next year's tax levy for Beltrami County will be an increase over its 2017 counterpart. However, the tax rate in 2018 will actually be lower.

BEMIDJI-Next year's tax levy for Beltrami County will be an increase over its 2017 counterpart. However, the tax rate in 2018 will actually be lower.

On Tuesday evening, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners adopted both the 2018 budget, coming to $89,099,550, and the tax levy, coming to $22,183,233. The latter is a 5.94 percent increase over the 2017 adopted levy, which came to $20,939,029.

While the final adopted levy is still an increase, it's lower than the previously proposed levy that was approved in September, which amounted to $22,239,610. That number was reduced over the last few months, though, because of a contract with the city of Bemidji for legal services being negotiated to get an additional $30,000, as well as debt services for the county's judicial center being reduced to the same level as 2017 and an adjustment to an allowance for the county attorney's office staff.

Some of the cost drivers leading to a higher tax levy in 2018, meanwhile, include:

• Growth in the debt services levy, amounting to $45,000.

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• Additional expenses for another judge being assigned to Beltrami County courts, amounting to $328,623.

• Sheriff's Office expenses, including a new field operations deputy, all together amounting to $80,887.

• Additional staffing for Beltrami County Human Services related to MNsure, licensing and adoption, foster care, permanency case work and chemical dependency assessment needs. This amounts to $135,025.

• Cost of living adjustments and changes to flexible spending dollars for insurance amount to $549,405.

"I think it's good to point out that even though our levy has gone up, our tax rate has actually gone down," said Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack. "So, what that means is values in the county went up at a higher rate than what the levy increase was. Not all of it was new value, some of it was inflationary value. If someone were to have a property that stayed the same value, their county tax would go down."

Mack also said Tuesday that while the county's expenditure budget amounts to more than $89 million, the tax levy is a more accurate indicator of what will be spent.

"The budget is on the table tonight too and it includes so many flow-through funds. It isn't reflective of what's in the board's control," Mack said. "In other words, the money that flows through different departments, but isn't county-levy related, is reflected in the budget. The levy is what we use for the things we haven't found other state or federal revenues for."

In separate motions, the budget and the tax levy were approved in 3-2 votes. In both tallies, Commissioners Keith Winger, Reed Olson and Richard Anderson were in favor and Tim Sumner and Jim Lucachick voted against.

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