Wadena County passes a 3.13% tax levy increase for 2023; each commissioner gets a $9,515 raise
The Wadena County Board of Commissioners passed a $10.14 million property tax levy for 2023; representing a 3.13% increase over last year. They also approved a $10,000 raise for each commissioner.
WADENA — The Wadena County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a 3.13% tax levy increase for 2023 during their most recent meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
The 2023 total levy amounts to $10,139,216, which is $308,201 more than the 2022 levy of $9,831,015.
Heather Olson, auditor/treasurer for Wadena County, presented the 2023 levy proposal to the commissioners, who seemed happy the preliminary levy increase of 10.37% fell more than 7% after staffing consolidations and other revenue management processes.
"Look at Heather's eyes," said Jon Kangas, chair of the Wadena County Board of Commissioners, after the board passed the 2023 property tax levy. "That's my first 'aye' on the levy. This one I can support. I was hoping for 3%, but this is close enough."
Olson said she was able to find additional county revenue by reinvesting funds that will come due in March and reinvest them under the current, or possibly higher, interest rates for the rest of the year.
"If interest rates remain the same, which I don't know if they will, but I don't think they are going to take this dramatic drop in the next three and a half months," said Olson. "My intention is to put that back in for the nine months because that's what we've been doing and we're going to get another chunk of interest help. And I did not budget for that, but it's not a guarantee at this point."
She also said the potential increases in investment revenue would cover any potential increases in county salaries approved by the board.
Olson said she will present the county's 2023 budget for commissioner approval at the board's next meeting on Dec. 20.
Commissioners also raised the salaries of elected officeholders, including themselves, during the meeting.
In 2023, Wadena County commissioners will each receive $35,085 in salaries and per diems, which is $9,515 more than they received in 2022. Sheldon Monson was the only commissioner to vote against the measure after his proposal of a 2.5% cost of living increase failed to gain traction with the other members of the board.
The reason for the steep raises, they pointed out, is because they hadn't received any pay increase in recent years. In 2015, each commissioner averaged $23,980 in salaries and per diem. By 2019, their pay had only increased to $27,493 and then began to decrease every year until 2022 when they earned an average of $25,600.
"In 2019, when I started as commissioner, I'm actually making less now," said Kangas.
The board also raised the salary of the county sheriff, the county auditor/treasurer, the county engineer and the county attorney.
— 2022: $109,670
— 2023: $116,088
— 2022: $93,042
— 2023: $98,868
— 2022: $75,757
— 2023: $73,376
— 2022: $106,050
— 2023: $115,504
— 2022: $127,036
— 2023: $129,610
The new salary levels bring the Wadena County officeholders to 90% of the pay level of seven comparable counties in the region.