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Clay County tax levy to jump 6.17%

The Clay County Commission set its 2003 tax levy Tuesday at $16.9 million, a 6.17 percent increase from 2002. That means the owner of home valued at $100,000 will pay $2.19 more toward the county portion of their property taxes next year. "I ...

The Clay County Commission set its 2003 tax levy Tuesday at $16.9 million, a 6.17 percent increase from 2002.

That means the owner of home valued at $100,000 will pay $2.19 more toward the county portion of their property taxes next year.

"I think we cut everywhere we possibly could," Clay County Auditor Lori Johnson told the commission. "We ended up with a (6.17) percent increase, but everyone tightened their budget."

Johnson said the county portion of property taxes on a home and farm valued $406,000 will increase $5.74.

Those examples do not reflect taxes residents will pay to their city or township, school district and the Buffalo Red River Watershed District.

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"That's only the county's share," Johnson said.

For instance, residents in the Moorhead School District passed a $64 million referendum in March to rebuild their school system.

As a result, the school district portion of taxes on a $100,000 Moorhead home will increase by about $183 per year.

The commission Tuesday also approved a 3 percent salary increase for all elected county officials.

Commissioners Mike McCarthy, Jerry Waller, Jon Evert, Ben Brunsvold and Kevin Campbell will earn about $21,132 next year compared to $20,502 in 2002.

Clay County Attorney Lisa Borgen will earn $89,648 compared to $87,024 in 2002; Johnson $68,307 compared to $66,307 this year; County Treasurer Betty Swetland $58,448 compared to $56,752 in 2002 and County Recorder Bonnie Rehder $55,515 compared to $53,924 this year.

Earlier this month the commission set Sheriff-elect Bill Bergquist's salary at $80,405, the same amount that former Sheriff Larry Costello earned prior to retiring.

McCarthy has said county employees and officials will most likely not receive a 3 percent cost of living increase next year.

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He said he would not have supported an increase this year had some of the county's union employees not been guaranteed a 3 percent increase.

"It wouldn't have been fair for the union employees to get their 3 percent and the others zero," McCarthy said. "Next year we start from scratch. If the anticipated revenue shortfall is going to be as large as predicted, that's one of the areas we'll have to look at."

The state faces a $4.6 billion budget shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle.

Officials are worried the state deficit may cause the Legislature to reduce aid payments to rural counties and cities.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535

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