Martin County puts levy hike at 10 percent

FAIRMONT – As much as Martin County commissioners wanted to shrink the 2015 property tax levy hike to single digits, they settled for 10 percent Tuesday.

While not down to the desired 9.9 percent or less, the levy hike is down from a 13 percent proposal commissioners faced last month.

“A lot of that is due to the reduction of the health insurance [cost],” said Martin County Auditor Jim Forshee.

He explained that the county will see a 2.9 percent premium increase, down from the 12 percent estimated for the 2015 budget.

“That brings us down to 10.0579 percent [for levy hike],” Forshee noted.

It would take another $6,000 to $10,000 in cuts to bring the levy under 10 percent. But commissioners felt they already have cut as much as possible without cutting people.

“There were several requests for reserves that we’re unable to do at this time,” Forshee said.

Options discussed but not acted on include eliminating funds for organizations such as the Martin County Fair, Martin County Historical Society, Martin County Humane Society, Senior Volunteers and Red Rock Center.

There also was discussion of eliminating an attorney from the County Attorney’s office.

“They have the allocation; what they do with it is up to them,” Commissioner Steve Pierce said of the office.

Counties need to submit a preliminary levy increase to the state by Sept. 15. Once that number is submitted, the levy can be lowered but not increased. The final levy is ratified in December.

Commissioners approved the 10 percent figure, but noted they still want to lower it by the end of the year.

In other business, commissioners received a report from Martin County emergency manager Erin Busta.

She said Fairmont, Northrop, 12 townships, the county’s highway department and Prairieland applied for federal aid, with damages estimated at $750,000, from storms and flooding in June.