Havre Daily News
Hill County taxes will increase 6 mills this year to 129.65 mills, about 5 percent more than last year.
Taxpayers outside the Havre and Hingham city limits, who also pay for roads, will pay a 0.77-mill increase for road maintenance. Rural fire districts have kept mill levies at the same level or asked for slight increases of up to 0.17 mills.
The Hill County Commission on Wednesday approved a budget for fiscal year 2005-06. It gives the county a budget of about $15 million. Of that, $4.3 million will be raised through property taxes. The rest is raised through grants, fees, and state and federal dollars.
Last year Hill County raised taxes about 9 percent. Though the increase was bigger last year, this year's increase will bring in more money because the taxable value of property in the county is up.
The total value of taxable property in Hill County is $27.4 million, up about $640,000. Most of the increase is due to new construction and oil and gas exploration and development.
An increase allows the county to take in more money even if the mill levy stayed the same.
The 6-mill increase will raise county taxes by about $19.77 on a Havre house valued at $100,000.
The tax increase is just enough to keep up with the cost of doing business, Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said Thursday.
Three areas will receive more tax money this fiscal year: the county's general fund, the District Court fund, which both increased by about 5 mills, and a permissive health insurance tax, which is going up by almost 3 mills.
The increase to the general fund is due to a 2.7 percent cost-of-living increase for wages, as well as the increased cost of materials, Kaercher said.
The District Court fund needed an increase to pay for the rising cost of housing juvenile offenders, as well as a growing number of juvenile offenders, he said. That tax increased last year as well.
"Because those (costs) really originate at the District Court level, it isn't something we have control over," Kaercher said.
Finally, taxpayers will pay 22.83 mills, compared with 19 mills last year, for rising health insurance costs for county employees. A few years ago the Montana Legislature allowed counties to collect a tax to pay for the increase in premiums.
Though the permissive tax went up, the county will collect about 2.5 fewer mills for the separate health fund, which pays for health care. The county is self-insured, and reserves left from last year's health fund allowed the county to lower that tax, Kaercher said.
The tax rate for other county operations remained the same or came down slightly, including the airport fund, park fund, museum fund and county planning fund.
For the second year in a row,the Hill County park fund and fair fund will get less money from county taxpayers because of increased nontax revenue.
Great Northern Fair manager Tim Solomon said the fair has brought in more revenue from its various sources, including the Great Northern Fair, building and campground rentals, and winter storage. Last fiscal year the fair received $43,280. This year the fair will take in $8,207 in taxpayer dollars.
Other decreases were more moderate, and also reflect increased nontax revenue, Kaercher said.
Law enforcement, included in the general fund, was one area that received some increases, Kaercher said. The Hill County Sheriff's Office will receive money for a new vehicle and weapons, requests that were denied last year.
Also, a new position will be created, a transportation officer, which officials say should allow the Sheriff's Office to free up more staff to handle a jail population that often has been near maximum capacity.