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Beltrami County tax levy to increase by 3.96% in 2022

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Beltrami County Board of Commission approved a $27.08 million tax levy for 2022, an increase of 3.96% over 2021. The 2022 budget for the county was also approved Tuesday.

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Beltrami County (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Financial matters for Beltrami County in 2022 were finalized Tuesday night with both next year's tax levy and budget receiving approval.

At a special session following its regular meeting on Dec. 14, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed resolutions for both the budget and levy. With the latter, Commissioners approved a levy of $27.08 million, an increase of $1.03 million, or 3.96%, over the 2021 amount of $26.05 million.

"The increases in the levy that are being proposed are driven largely by uncontrollable costs," County Administrator Tom Barry said. "They were things that we either had to pay for because they were pre-approved in contracts or had escalators where we had no control over, like utility costs. Those things, along with debt service increases, constituted the majority of the recommended increase."

The two largest increases are related to public safety and human services. Individually, the increases are as follows:

  • For the county's revenue fund for general government needs, the amount is $1.94 million in 2022, a $139,240 increase from the $1.8 million amount in 2021.
  • For public safety, the county is levying $11.92 million in 2022, an increase of $421,107 from the $11.5 million in 2021.
  • For human services, the county is levying $8.93 million in 2022, a $314,560 increase over the 2021 amount of $8.62 million.
  • Toward roads and bridges, the county is levying $2.9 million in 2022, an $80,022 increase over $2.8 million for 2021.

On the debt services side the increases include:

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  • A levy of $394,000 in 2022 for the Beltrami County Jail, which is up $25,000 from the $369,000 in 2021.
  • A levy of $296,000 in 2022 for the Law Enforcement Center, a $9,000 increase from the $287,000 amount in 2021.
  • A levy of $682,000 in 2022 for the Beltrami County Judicial Center, a $42,000 increase over the $640,000 amount in 2021.

"I was on the budget committee with Commissioner (Jim) Lucachick and members of the staff," said District 2 Commissioner Reed Olson. "While we did come in with a relatively low 3.96% levy increase, it still was not easy. It's a very difficult job. I do think we did a good job of keeping the levy down this year, but it is a challenging committee to be on."
The budget, meanwhile, includes expenses of $91.23 million in 2022, up from $77.13 million in 2021. Additionally, the 2022 budget includes $90.81 million, up from $76.82 million in 2021.

The largest increases were related to general government and highway expenses. General government expenses are going from $12.15 million in 2021 to $17.49 million in 2022. Highway expenses are rising from $14.6 million in 2021 to $22.3 million in 2022.

The revenue increases are mostly being driven by intergovernmental funding, including the federal American Rescue Plan Act, as well as additional aid from the state and federal governments.

RELATED: Beltrami Commissioners determine use of $3.3 million in federal funds

"The budget itself is about an 18% increase year over year," Barry said. "I don't want folks to be alarmed. What we're seeing is the infusion from ARP dollars and an increase in government aid, in addition to carry-over funds from projects that were moved to 2022. All of that essentially elevated the budget. For the most part, service levels are remaining the same."

"There are some construction projects being carried over," Olson said. "So it is an increase, but a big chunk of it is money intended for 2021 that was pushed back to 2022. It's a little bit of an artificial inflation."

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