Douglas County commissioners approve 2023 budget of nearly $63.6 million
The 2023 levy was set at nearly $32.2 million – an increase of 5.75% over last year.
DOUGLAS COUNTY — After making some cuts to the budget, Douglas County Commissioners set the 2023 levy at $32,187,372 – a decrease of $594,735 from the preliminary budget set back in September.
This represents an overall tax levy increase of 5.75% for the 2023 tax year. This is nearly 2% less than what was proposed in September.
The levy increase doesn't mean everyone's taxes will go up by that same amount. Other factors can come into play, including property value increases, which were reported in a Nov. 23 Echo Press story.
Commissioners set the levy at the Truth in Taxation meeting, which took place Thursday, Dec. 1. They also approved the 2023 budget and net budgets for the county attorney’s office, auditor/treasurer’s office, sheriff’s office and the county recorder’s office.
Vicki Doehling, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, and Jill Frisell, finance director, provided detailed information about the county budgets and levy during the meeting.
The 2023 budget was set at $63,595,002, about $4 million more than the 2022 budget. Budgets for the four departments were set at follows:
- County attorney: $1,236,794 – an increase of $73,441 (6.31%)
- Auditor/treasurer: $448,677 – a decrease of $125,402 (21.84%)
- Sheriff’s office: $10,397,640 – an increase of $810,764 (8.46%)
- Recorder: $46,332 – an increase of $13,255 (40.07%)
Frisell talked about some of the factors that drive the budget, including keeping up with state mandates, scheduling road projects with new available funding, maintaining vital service levels to meet increased caseloads and maintaining facilities and amenities that contributed to the local quality of life.
“Most of the county’s services cost is in our staff, but without staff, we cannot deliver vital and mandated services,” she said.
She also said that the county is constantly working to manage service demands with the need to keep levies low and plan for the future in a “fiscally responsible way.”
Revenue sources for the county come from a variety of sources with property taxes ($32,324,919) making up about 51%. Other sources are as follows:
- State grants, aid and reimbursement of services – $15,581,033 (24%)
- Federal grants and reimbursement of services – $5,587,713 (9%)
- Charges and fees – $4,159,886 (7%)
- Transportation sales tax – $3,840,000 (6%)
- Planned use of fund balance and all other revenues – $2,101,451 (3%)
So, where does the money go? Frisell explained that there are a variety of expenses for the county, including the biggest expense – highways and streets. For 2023, the proposed amount to be spent on highways and streets is $18,894,266. This makes up about 29.8% of the budget and includes administration, road maintenance, engineering and construction, equipment, maintenance and shop, materials and services for resale, and central fueling.
General government, which makes up about 20.5% – or $13,008,552 – includes several items like the auditor/treasurer office, finance department, county attorney, planning and zoning, recorder, court administration, license bureau, information systems, veterans services, facilities maintenance, elections, coordinator, surveyor, county assessor, commissioners, law library, external auditors, central services and humane society.
The next biggest two budget categories are public safety (20.3% – $12,913,636) and health and human services (18.6% – $11,686,499).
These two items include sheriff’s office, jail, drug task force, boat and water safety, enhanced 911, dispatch, medical examiner, probation, emergency management, children’s services, child care and foster care licensing, chemical dependency, mental health, developmental disabilities, adult services, food support, cash assistance, emergency assistance, child care assistance, health care programs and child support services.
Other expenses include culture and recreation (3.8% – $2,394,426), debt service (3.8% – $2,415,456), conservation of natural resources (1.7 % – $1,093,392) and other (1.5% – $924,777), which includes intergovernmental, capital outlay and economic development.
Reasons why taxes may go up/down
During the meeting, Doehling offered reasons why property taxes go up and down, and explained that the county board only has discretion over its own budget and levy.
Here’s a look at the changes that can make an impact on property taxes:
- The market value and/or classification of your property.
- The market value and/or classification of other properties in your taxing district may change, shifting taxes from one property to another.
- The state’s general property tax.
- The city or township budget and levy.
- The county budget and levy.
- The school district’s budget and levy.
- A special district’s budget and levy.
- Special assessments may be added to your property tax bill.
- Voters may have approved a school, city, township, county or special district referendum.
- Federal and state mandates.
- Aid and revenue from the state and federal governments.
- The state Legislature may have changed the portion of the tax base paid by different types of properties.
- Other state law changes may adjust the tax base.