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Nobles County works to reduce tax burden; eyes 4.988% property tax levy increase

With growing population and demand for increased services, county plans to add six new positions in 2022.

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This graphic shows how property tax dollars are spent in Nobles County, based on a tax bill of $1,000. Special to The Globe

WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County board of commissioners hosted its annual Truth in Taxation hearing Thursday evening in Worthington, in which it was announced that county spending will increase 7.45% for 2022 — to $15,601,337. This is up from $14,860,094 in 2021 spending.

Reasons for the increase include salary increases of 2.23% for staff, the creation of six new positions in county government in 2022, new appropriations to four different ambulance services — including two that are outside of Nobles County — that serve the county’s residents, and increased appropriations to some entities within the county. In addition, more funds were required for election administration since 2022 is an election year, and there was a need to increase the budget for community corrections.

“Our population is increasing and demand for services is greater,” said Nobles County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp of the newly created positions.

With the spending increase, the county appears to be ready to settle on a 4.988% property tax levy increase, which is a decrease from the 10% it set as its not-to-exceed levy in September. The 4.988% levy increase means property tax revenues for the county will increase from $14,860,094 to $15,601,337.

Much work was done in recent months by the budget committee and department heads to lower the amount it would need from taxpayers to cover expenses. One of the steps taken was to dip into reserves to pay the increased insurance benefits for employees, Heitkamp said. This minimized the levy increase, and is also hoped to attract more employees by paying a larger share of their insurance premium.

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The county will take official action on its 2022 budget during its Dec. 21 board meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the boardroom, located on the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center in downtown Worthington.

Third lowest in tax capacity

Heitkamp said Nobles County ranked the third lowest in tax levy, per capita, of the nine counties in southwest Minnesota in 2021. Jackson County had the highest taxes, per capita, at $1,106 (their levy was $11,045,152 and their 2020 census population was 9,989), followed by Lincoln County at $1,035 per capita (levy of $5,836,908 with a 2020 census population of 5,640).

Cottonwood, Murray, Redwood and Pipestone counties all had higher per-capita taxes than Nobles County, while Rock and Lyon counties had lower per-capita taxes. Lyon County, home to Marshall, had the lowest per capita tax, at $603. It is also the largest of the nine counties with a 2020 census population of 25,269, compared to Nobles County’s 2020 population of 22,290.

Heitkamp said while Nobles County continues to grow slowly — unlike all of its bordering Minnesota counties that have lost population — it has also seen a decrease in state-issued county program aid, as well as an increase in mandated services.

Where do the taxes come from?

Being a largely agricultural county, it’s no surprise that much of the taxes are generated from agricultural land — 63.6% in 2022. This is down slightly from 64.6% in 2021. Residential property owners account for 16.99% of tax revenue for the county, followed by commercial and industrial properties at 12.17%. Personal property adds another 3.98% of tax revenues, utilities and railroads contribute 1.65% and apartments contribute 1.61%.

Dividing the county’s share

Based on a tax bill of $1,000, $405 would go to Nobles County to fund government services.

In 2022, general government will again be the greatest recipient of tax revenues ($121.01), followed by human services ($88.01), public safety ($61.39), the jail ($54.51), culture and recreation — Nobles County libraries, historical society and parks — ($27.99), and highway department ($21.29). All other departments receive $11 or less of that $1,000 tax bill. Those departments, ordered from highest to lowest amounts received, include public health, debt service, parole and probation, conservation of natural resources and economic development.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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