Bowman Co. seeks 12 percent tax hike: With millions in reserve, residents question increase
BOWMAN -- A proposal to raise taxes by 12 percent for the 2013 fiscal year has some Bowman County residents wondering if such a hike is warranted.
That was the consensus before the Bowman County Commissioners Tuesday night during a public hearing for next year's budget at the county courthouse in Bowman.
Citing rising costs in several areas, the five commissioners detailed a plan that asks taxpayers to chip in nearly $1.4 million out of a projected $10.5 million needed to run the county in 2013. The increase represents about a 12 percent jump from what taxpayers were required to pay for the 2012 budget.
"Between this raise and what the school is going to ask for -- it's a lot to ask," said county resident Pam Hestekin. "This would put a pretty big burden on some people. When you talk about a lot of the elderly people who are on a fixed income, these increases could cause quite a problem."
Commissioner Lynn Brackel said the county's hands are tied on several "mandated" increases and singled out rising costs for social services for residents, and retirement and health insurance tabs for county employees.
"We've done our best to try to get these things in line," Brackel said. "We know what it's going to be like when that tax bill comes out in January. Basically, these are dollar amounts that we don't have control over. We're thinking about the taxpayers."
With no vote taken on the budget Tuesday, the final levy numbers could change. Commissioner Bill Bowman told eight people in attendance that the county would be looking into the possible use of Bureau of Land Management funds to offset at least part of any property tax increase. Bowman County is home to about 33,000 acres of BLM land.
"That's something that we're going to look into," Bowman said. "We have to find out if that's something we can do."
County resident Lloyd McKeown wondered aloud why the county needed to raise taxes by 12 percent.
"I'd like to know how much money Bowman County has in the bank," McKeown said.
The commissioners revealed that Bowman County has more than $21 million in reserve, although Brackel pointed out that some of that is already allocated to different projects and future needs.
The biggest costs by far for the county are roads and bridges, which in the preliminary budget totaled more than $6 million.
A final vote on the 2013 budget will take place later this year.