Wayne Stein

OTC preliminary levy to increase 4.71 percent from 2020

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

On Sept. 28 the five-person Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary net property tax levy of $45.4 million for 2022. This represents a proposed 4.71 percent tax increase compared to the 2021 levy.

“The county board has the authority to decrease the proposed net tax levy but will not raise the levy,” says County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein.

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to received public comments regarding the 2022 budget and levy. This will be done prior to the final adoption of the 2022 budget and levy.

The entire preliminary budget for 2022 is approximately $137 million.

Stein said that close to 34 percent of the estimated budget is funded with property tax dollars. The additional needed funding comes from the state and federal governments for budget items such as county road maintenance and county human services.

“Budget requests came in which would have resulted in a 6.43 percent increase for 2022, but we made the necessary adjustments to lower this to 4.71 percent,” said County Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids.

County taxpayers, in certain areas, also pay for Community Development Agencies, Housing and Redevelopment Associations and Lake Improvement Districts.

“Our county work units have been challenged to use employees in the most efficient ways as possible,” Johnson said, “before requests are made for new hires.”

Commissioner Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood said there has been good self-reflection in county departments while using county dollars in the best interests of county residents.

County Board Chairman Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls said needed broadband dollars are included in the 2022 budget.

“Broadband is not good in many areas of the county,” Rogness said. “We need parity in our rural areas.”

The structure of

county government

• Economic growth and community investment: highways, solid waste, parks and trails, land management and community and economic development.

• Safety and justice: county sheriff, county attorney, probation and emergency management and safety

• Finance, property and license management: auditor-treasurer, motor vehicle, recorder, assessor

• Health and wellness: public health, human services, veteran services and extension office

• Administration: human resources: IT, facilities, GIS and communications/public relations