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County increases tax levy by nearly 2 percent

Property owners in Douglas County will see their property taxes go up by nearly 2 percent for the 2017 tax year.

Char Rosenow, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, provided detailed information about the county's $49 million budget and $25.9 million dollar levy Thursday, Dec. 1, during its annual Truth in Taxation meeting.

Douglas County commissioners, along with the department heads, have been working hard on the budget for several months and were happy to hit their goal of keeping the levy increase less than 2 percent. The $499,804 increase came in just shy of 2 percent at 1.96 percent.

One of the largest increases, percentage-wise, was in the auditor/treasurer department. That department saw an almost 35 percent increase in its budget, which was set at $676,629. Dollar-wise, the increase was only $175,139. Rosenow said the increase was because of salaries that were moved into that department from other departments, as well as cost of living increases, a 22 percent increase in health insurance and items moved from central services.

The total law enforcement budget, which includes road deputies, emergency management, the jail and jail maintenance, water patrol and dispatch saw a larger increase in its budget dollar-wise. Percentage-wise, the increase was nearly 6.8 percent. The law enforcement budget was set at roughly $7.7 million and, according to Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, the increase in his budget was due to health insurance, overtime hours, contracts that were behind a couple of years, payroll and payroll-related items.

Here's a breakdown of other county departments:

• Public Works: $4.1 million levy — 2.5 percent decrease.

• Social Services: $4.2 million levy — 3.2 percent increase.

• Library: $946,744 levy — 9.5 percent increase.

• Capital projects: $368,395 levy — 7.6 percent increase. Projects include library carpet, license bureau remodel, tuck pointing court house and a new generator.

• Bonds and interest: $2.2 million levy — 2.9 percent decrease.

Apparently, the small increase didn't upset Douglas County property owners too much as there were only 13 people in attendance at the public meeting — nine of those 13, however, were either county employees or members of the media, and four were county residents. No members of the public asked any questions during the meeting. However, a couple of them spoke to Douglas County Assessor Keith Albertsen in private after the meeting to ask specific questions about their property tax statements.

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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