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Douglas County sets levy increase of 4.44%

It’s 1.45% less than the initial amount.

VickiDoehlingAndJillFrisell.jpg
Vicki Doehling, left, Douglas County auditor/treasurer and Jill Frisell, Douglas County finance director.

Most property owners in Douglas County will see their property taxes go up by 4.44% for the 2021 tax year.

This is a lower rate – 1.45% less – than the preliminary levy set by the commissioners back in September. After making cuts to the budget, the commissioners approved the lower levy amount, which was set at $30.4 million instead of almost $30.9 million.

Vicki Doehling, Douglas County auditor/treasurer, and Jill Frisell, finance director, provided a detailed presentation about the county’s $59.5 million budget and $30.4 million levy during the annual Truth in Taxation meeting Thursday, Dec. 2

No questions were asked from the one non-county employee in attendance.

The county’s levy increased by $710,808, an increase of 2.5% from last year. Its budget increased by $2,606,355, a 4.6% increase.

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The net levy budgets were also set for the following departments:

  • County attorney – $1.16 million. This is an increase of $58,832 (5.33%).

  • County auditor/treasurer – $574,079. This is an increase of $222,336 (63.21% – the largest budget increase.) The previous net budget for this department was actually $1.4 million because it also included the finance department. But in 2021, the two departments were separated and after that, the 2021 net budget for just the auditor/treasurer’s department was $351,743.

  • County recorder – $33,077. This is an increase of $1,158 (4.81%).

  • County sheriff – $9.5 million. This is an increase of $273,905 (2.94% – the smallest budget increase.)

Here’s a breakdown of other county departments:

  • General: $18.52 million

  • Public Works: $4.18 million

  • Social Services: $4 million

  • Library: $1.14 million

  • Capital projects: $235,204

  • Bonds and interest: $2.34 million.

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 what can make an impact on property taxes:

  • The market value and/or classification of your property may change.

  • 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 may change.

  • The city or township budget and levy may change.

  • The county budget and levy may change.

  • The school district’s budget and levy may change.

  • A special district’s budget and levy may change.

  • 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 may have changed.

  • Aid and revenue from the state and federal governments may have changed.

  • 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.

Frisell explained how the budget process works and some of the key budget drivers.
She said that counties provide essential community programs and services, such as road maintenance, law enforcement, social services and veterans services.

Each year, the county commissioners pass a new budget to cover the costs of those “crucial services,” she said.

Frisell also added that residents are welcome to participate in the budget process by attending and speaking at public hearings or by contacting their county commissioners during the process.

The budgeting process begins in about June when department heads estimate the county’s need for programs and services, along with their costs. Typically in September, the commissioners use the estimates to create a preliminary budget. In November, residents are notified of proposed property tax and at that time are invited to speak at public meetings.

Then in December, the Truth in Taxation meeting, which is when the final levy and budget is set, will take place.

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“Douglas 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,” said Frisell.

Some of the key budget drivers include 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 contribute to quality of life.

“Most of the cost of the county’s services is in our staff and without staff, we cannot deliver vital and mandated services,” said Frisell.

For the 2022 proposed revenue sources, 51% or about $30.5 million, comes from property taxes. The rest comes from state grants, aid and reimbursement of services (25%), transportation sales tax (6%), federal grants and reimbursement of services (7%), charges and fees (7%) and others (4%).

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