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Douglas County Board adopts 2023 budget

The county's $65.7 million budget will be supported by an $18.7 million property tax levy.

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Douglas County has a $65.7 million revenue and spending plan for 2023.

The county board adopted the budget Tuesday, Oct. 25, and approved an $18.7 million property tax levy to support county operations and cover the cost of debt next year.

“Our growth from net new construction this year — the amount we can raise our operating levy by — is 0.94%, $156,784,” county administrator Ann Doucette said. “By state law, that is all we can raise our operating levy by.”

Overall, the levy will increase $789,388, a 4.4% increase over last year, to cover the cost of county debt.

“Most of that is debt service,” Doucette said.

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Supervisor Keith Allen asked why the debt payments for 2023 increased when in past years intergovernmental charges for services help pay about $243,115 of the county’s debt each year.

Those payments came from Superior for its share of the cost of building out space for city operations in the Government Center and that debt was paid earlier this year, Doucette said.

“So, they’re getting free rent now?” Allen asked.

County board Chairman Mark Liebaert said the county is negotiating a lease for the space with city officials.

Expenses for county operations are expected to increase by 10.9% for county services in 2023. That increase includes spending an additional $568,000 on payroll after a wage study revealed the county was falling behind in employee compensation.

Doucette said the county got lucky that health insurance costs only increased by 2.5% while other counties are reporting increases of 9% or higher.

“More good news is sales tax is $4 million approximately,” Doucette said.

With growth in county property valuations of 14%, Douglas County’s average mill rate will fall below $4 per $1,000 of property value for the first time in more than a decade, Doucette said. Towns and villages pay a little more because of the library and bridge aid, she said.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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