Swift County proposing $337,500 in ditch levies
Swift County is proposing $337,500 in ditch assessments in 2014 for needed repairs as well as to pay for repairs that have already taken place. The proposed assessments range from $2,500 to $100,000.
If approved, the assessments for 2014 will be $195,562 lower then the unusually large assessment of $533,062 for 2013. The high assessment for this year was not only intended to pay for planned repairs, but to bail some of the ditch systems out of persistent deficits.
At the end of 2012, there were 21 ditch systems in the red. It is projected that there will be only six in the red in 2014 based on current work and assessments planned.
Counties have three kinds of ditch systems: joint ditches, judicial ditches and county ditches. These ditches can also have laterals added to them as well as improvements made.
Joint ditch systems are formed with neighboring counties, judicial ditches were formed by the court systems back in the 1950s and 1960s, and county ditches were created by petition to the county board.
Once a ditch system is created, it is given a name, for example, County Ditch Number 58 or Judicial Ditch Number 18. That ditch system then pays for the original bond cost of digging the ditch. Once the main ditch bonds are paid, any funds left over go into the repair fund. But in time those extra funds are spent and those benefiting from the ditch have to be assessed for continued maintenance.
Ditch systems are paid for by landowners whose property benefit from taking unwanted water away from their fields. Individual assessments reflect the percentage of benefit each landowner derives from the system.
For more than a century, farmers in the county have put in tile systems that drain low-lying areas so than it can be planted to crops. Those tile lines flow into the ditches, which flow to the rivers.