Mandan News

Morton to review budget on Monday

By LeAnn Eckroth

MANDAN, N.D. –Morton County Auditor Dawn Rhone said the county portion of property taxes will decrease in a 2014 budget proposal. The county’s final budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the commission room of the Morton County Courthouse.

Commissioners will decide what to cut and to keep from the proposed $21.02 million draft budget. Commissioners recommend levying $11.07 million in property taxes using 96.24 mills to operate the county. The county is levying about 10.27 mills less than 2013. Last year, the county levied $10.84 million in property taxes.
Property taxes make up roughly 54 percent of the county revenue, Rhone said.

Overall property valuations in Morton County increased by 8.5 percent, said Rhone. “Half that’s new growth and half that’s a valuation increase,” Rhone said.

Growth and a larger property tax base seem to have allowed the property taxes to be shared by more property owners and businesses.

The owner of $200,000 home in Mandan will see the county share of property taxes decrease from the $917 they in 2013 to $866 in 2014. Plus, those taxes will be lowered by another 12 percent through a state tax credit. The state tax credit decrease will be detailed in property tax statements that will be mailed out in December.

Other county revenue sources include state aid from the state sales tax, a tax collected from the Bison Wind Farm, state gas tax for roads and building permit fees. The county now collects $8,300 per wind tower from the generation tax -about 70 units every year. Rhone said those funds are redistributed to taxing entities affected by the wind farm. These include the county general fund, New Salem Rural Fire Department and the New Salem-Almont School District.

Four new full-time employees are requested in the budget – a clerk’s position in the state’s attorney’s office for $35,000, a position in the tax director’s office for $34,000, a new deputy for the sheriff’s office for $46,000 and a dispatcher for $36,000.

A 5 percent pay increase is proposed for the 158 full-time county employees, but has not been finalized. If approved, this will cost the county $445,000 more in wages next year. In 2013, Morton County is budgeted for $7.5 million in salaries.

Aside from multiple road projects, the county has approved $165,000 to repair a heating and cooling system on the roof of the county courthouse.

The budget includes the purchase of three new road graders for the county highway department at a cost of $870,000. With trade-in of old equipment the graders net cost will be $420,000.

The county draft budget has the county pay half of 2 percent increase for the county employee retirement program. The increase adds $55,000 to the budget. The workers will pay the other half of the retirement increase.