SIOUX CITY | Roughly 8,100 rural Woodbury County property owners will get bigger tax bills next year to pay for $6.5 million worth of bridge repairs over the next five years.

The increase is part of the $50 million fiscal year 2013-14 budget that takes effect July 1. The County Board passed the spending plan and the rural tax increase 4-1 Tuesday. Supervisor David Tripp cast the dissenting votes both times.

The levy that rural residents pay into the Rural Basic Fund will go from $2.40 to $3.65 per $1,000 of valuation to cover repairs to 14 bridges and improve a road near Anthon. Their total levy goes from $9.85 to $11.05 per $1,000, for an increase of $84 for a property valued at $100,000.

City residents, meanwhile, will pay slightly more in property taxes to the county, despite a 5-cent drop in their levy, from $7.45 to $7.40 per $1,000. The higher amount in their tax bills will come from the state rollback factor, which determines what percentage of a property's value is taxable. For a $100,000 home, it means $14 more in property taxes for the year.

The county's total tax asking for 2013-14 will be $1.2 million more than the current fiscal year ending June 30. Without the additional $1.3 million for the bridge program, it would have been $110,730 less.

Tripp said the state and federal governments should be directing more funding for county roads.

"How come the state can't pull their weight?" he asked.

County Budget Director Dennis Butler said the rural tax increase is "a partial solution" because the other governments can't be counted on for more funding.

Board Chairman Larry Clausen said fixing the bridges will reduce the long detours farmers transporting heavy loads must make to avoid aging bridges, and Moville farmer Lane Tabke agreed it would help producers.

"It is a way of replacing some of our infrastructure that is going downhill," Tabke said.

Sioux City resident Eric Blumberg asked the board to consider raising taxes to cover a shortfall in mental health spending. The state is moving to a new regional system for mental health services beginning July 1, resulting in a $6.4 million loss in state funding for Woodbury County next year.

During earlier budget discussions, the board cut nearly $442,000 in funding for two mental health programs. On Tuesday, Clausen told Blumberg the county can't raise any more money from property taxes because the mental health levy has been at the state-allowed maximum of $3.56 million since 1998.

In all, the board cut $2.5 million in projected spending for FY 2013-14 to avoid a hefty property tax increase.

"The board did a wonderful job this year with the budget, but we could have done better," Tripp said.

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County and education reporter

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