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Cass commission votes not to raise property taxes

It's 65 and holding in Cass County. The Cass County Commission on Monday approved a preliminary 2004 budget that doesn't raise property taxes. The commission agreed to set the mill levy at 65 mills, essentially unchanged from 65.05 mills this yea...

It's 65 and holding in Cass County.

The Cass County Commission on Monday approved a preliminary 2004 budget that doesn't raise property taxes.

The commission agreed to set the mill levy at 65 mills, essentially unchanged from 65.05 mills this year.

"We want to live within our means, and that's 65 mills," said commission Chairman Scott Wagner.

The county typically levies about 65 mills out of a possible 75. Sixty-five mills equates to $292 on a $100,000 home.

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The $49.6 million preliminary budget approved Monday is about $6.3 million more than the 2003 budget.

The increase includes about $1.47 million more in salary and benefits for existing positions, $663,000 in salary and benefits for proposed new positions and $1.6 million for homeland security.

Though the proposed budget may not be perfect, it's still a good one, said Commissioner Vern Bennett.

"We can't make the world better, but we can make a few lives better," he said.

State and federal grants will absorb some of the proposed $6.3 million increase, said County Auditor Michael Montplaisir.

And a projected 6.5 percent increase in Cass County's taxable valuation will bring in $1.3 million more dollars next year than the same mill levy raised this year, he said.

Even so, the county would need to tap it reserves to fund the budget approved Monday, he said.

But commissioners said the final budget, which must be approved by Oct. 1, may be considerably smaller than the preliminary one.

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"This is a work in progress," said Commissioner John Meyer.

He and other commissioners hope to identify potential savings over the next few weeks.

Revisions to the budget, if any, will be presented when the commission meets at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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