Ward County commissioners trimmed about $1 million from the property-tax bill following a hearing Thursday on the 2023 county budget.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to reduce the salary increase for employees next year from 5% to 3.5%, saving roughly around $275,000.
Commission Chairman Jim Rostad, who voted against the reduction, cited the impact inflation is having on households.
“I just have a problem doing that when everything around us is more than three and half percent, or more than the five percent actually,” he said.
Commissioner Shelly Weppler, who voted against the reduction, said she initially had supported 8% but is comfortable with the 5%.
The commission voted unanimously to reduce the farm-to-market mill levy for roads by about $450,000. The decision was influenced by recent information that Ward County is in line for $5.5 million from the state Prairie Dog bill, based on oil revenue going into that program.
The commission voted unanimously to reduce funding for the Ward County Water Resource Board by $356,140 because of the large reserves the board has accumulated. Commissioner John Pietsch, who proposed the reduction, said he prefers the board request funds for large projects when needed rather than build large reserves.
“It isn’t just the water board. I don’t like to see departments and other boards building up huge slush funds or cash on hand,” he said.
The commission also reduced funding in the preliminary budget from $400,000 to $360,000 for the North Dakota State Fair to match the fair’s county appropriation for 2022.
The county commission will meet to review numbers and take final action on the budget Monday at a special meeting at 2:30 p.m.
The commission heard from four individuals who spoke about their concerns over property taxes during the budget hearing. Concerns were raised about the impact of increasing taxes on seniors and other taxpayers on fixed incomes.
Scott Samuelson of Minot noted the state disavows any control over rising property taxes, pointing taxpayers to their local governments, which claim they are required to levy for state-mandated programs.
“I just don’t understand how everybody can’t get together and take responsibility for what’s going on,” he said. “Somehow all of you guys have to get together and fix this.”