FAIRMONT - Martin County commissioners set a preliminary 2013 property tax levy increase of 5.95 percent Tuesday, with officials leaning on county savings for the second year in a row.
Cuts made from the originally proposed 13.6 percent levy increase involved a request for county departments to submit proposed reductions, bringing the figure down to 8.9 percent. Using reserves brought the levy hike down further, to the proposed 5.95.
Along with using $325,000 from the county's general reserves, commissioners said they will ask the highway department to use some of its reserves as well. Martin County Engineer Kevin Peyman addressed commissioners earlier in the meeting and reported his department's reserves just returned to a steady level after the mild winter of 2011-12.
A preliminary levy is required to be turned into the state by Sept. 15. Counties can lower the levy after that date, but cannot increase it.
A final levy is approved following a Truth-in-Taxation meeting in December.
The 5.95 percent increase number passed 4-1, with Commissioner Dan Schmidtke voting no.
"I like where we're going, but I don't like how we're getting there," he said. "I had to vote my feelings on that."
Last year, the county approved a 1.9 percent levy increase, using $500,000 from reserves.
In other business, commissioners spent two hours hosting a public hearing regarding improvements on judicial ditch 40 in northeastern Martin County.
While the 100-year-old drainage ditch is in dire need of repair or replacement, landowners on the north and south end of the project were opposed to the hefty assessments. The estimated $1 million project breaks down to assessments of around $1,000 an acre, according to one meeting attendant.
After some heated debate, commissioners agreed to continue discussions on the ditch in December in order to give landowners and officials time to research a possible alternative that would be less costly.