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Cass County Board: 2019 preliminary tax levy a 1 percent increase

WALKER—Cass County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, Sept. 4, to set the preliminary 2019 county levy at $22,530,913.

That is $223,053 or 1 percent, more than levied for 2018. The final levy will be set following a public hearing in December.

It includes $22,027,913 to be levied countywide to fund county operations, which is up 1.023 percent over 2018, and $503,000 to be levied only in the Longville Ambulance Service District and funds ambulance service in the area surrounding Longville.

There is no increase proposed for the ambulance district.

The countywide levy actually will increase the county's tax rate by 0.11 percent, because new construction and higher values on some properties will offset some of the dollar increase when computing taxes on individual properties.

Cass County expects to receive $35,490,307 revenue from sources other than the levy in 2019, $418,000 of which will come from the county's local option sales tax for highway improvements.

County departments requested a total of $58,177,811 for 2019 operations. This is an increase of $2,133,093 over the 2018 budget. Some of that reflects the timing of when the highway department receives its road state-aid payments.

The proposed 2019 budget allows for adding one employee to the central services department and designates $600,000 for capital improvements.

The citizen budget committee approved the levy and budget amounts the board adopted Tuesday and will further review the budget proposal before making a final recommendation to the board before the December hearing.

State law stipulates the board may lower, but may not raise the levy amount before adopting a final 2019 levy.

Home for veterans

Beltrami County Veterans Services Officer Scotty Allison and former Beltrami county commissioner Joe Vene approached the Cass commissioners to update them on efforts to bring a home for veterans to Bemidji and to explain the need for local financial support for the proposed care facility.

Sanford Health Services donated land for the home near the Sanford Bemidji health care hospital/nursing home/clinic site. The 2018 Legislature dedicated $12.4 million for the Bemidji home, which could qualify the project for a 65 percent or $25,015,714 federal match, Allison and Vene explained.

Allison and Vene are contacting neighboring local governments and veterans' organizations in an attempt to get commitments for a local match in order to receive the full state and federal dollars. Beltrami County has committed $1 million.

The home would serve veterans needing skilled nursing care, 24-hour nursing care, hospice services, rehabilitation, mental health, chaplaincy, pharmaceutical, social and other services, Allison said.

The state will provide the building design for a 72-bed facility, he added. However, if an insufficient local match is not pledged, the facility could have fewer beds, he said.

The estimated $10 million operating costs will be borne by 50 percent federal, 25 percent state, and 25 percent private funding, Allison said.

Cass commissioners referred the project to Cass' citizen budget committee for a recommendation.

The pledge for a local match must be made by Sept. 30 this year and placed in escrow by March 2019 in order to get the federal match, Allison said.

Cass County Administrator Joshua Stevenson advised Cass commissioners any Cass contribution would have to come from the county's regular 2019 levied dollars in order to meet the March deadline.