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County cuts proposed levy in half

Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow, far left, provides detailed information about the county's budget and levy at the annual Truth in Taxation meeting Nov. 30, as the county commissioners and residents listen. (Celeste Edenloff / Osakis Review)

When Douglas County set its preliminary levy in September, property owners would have seen a 4 percent increase in their property taxes.

However, after refining the budget, Douglas County commissioners, at the annual Truth in Taxation meeting Thursday night, approved an increase of only 1.8 percent — 2.2 percent less than previously planned.

Char Rosenow, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, provided detailed information about the county's $51.2 million budget and $26.4 million levy Thursday, Nov. 30, to about 10 residents, along with a handful of county employees who attended the meeting.

Increases and decreases

At the meeting, the commissioners adopted resolutions for budgets in four departments, including the offices of the county attorney, auditor/treasurer, recorder and sheriff.

The largest increase percentage-wise, once again, was in the auditor/treasurer department. This year, the $1.1 million budget for that department includes a $389,306 increase. This represented a 57.54 percent increase. Last year, the increase was almost 35 percent.

This year's increase, according to Rosenow, included salary increases, health insurance costs and election costs. In addition, a large portion of the increase was due to fringe and travel costs that were moved from the social services department to the auditor/treasurer's.

Separate from the budget, Rosenow also touched on the centralized accounting department, which is fairly new to the county. Previously, there were individual accounting departments. This past summer, the county moved to a centralized accounting department that is within the auditor/treasurer department.

"It's working well," Rosenow said of the centralized department. "I think some departments would rather have their own people back, but as a whole, it works."

The recorder's office saw a decrease this year in its budget. The approved budget of $94,101 went down by $3,924 from last year, or 4 percent.

The county attorney and sheriff's office saw similar percentage increases — county attorney's office budget went up 5.37 percent and the sheriff's office saw a 4.93 percent hike.

However, their actual budgets have very different dollar amounts.

The 2018 budget approved for the county attorney's office was $987,325 — an increase of $50,335, which was due to salaries, cost of living and health insurance costs.

The sheriff's office approved budget for 2018 is $8.1 million, which represents a dollar amount increase of $381,901. The sheriff's office budget includes operation of the jail and dispatch center.

Other departments

Here's a breakdown of other county departments:

• Public Works: $3.7 million levy — 10.35 percent decrease.

• Social Services: $4.2 million levy — 0.73 percent decrease.

• Library: $1 million levy — 5.75 percent increase.

• Capital projects: $423,259 levy — 14.89 percent increase.

• Bonds and interest: $2.1 million levy — 3.9 percent decrease.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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