Three south metro suburban counties signed off last week on their 2020 budgets, with Carver, Scott and Dakota counties each funding next year’s spending plans through property tax levy increases ranging from nearly 3 to 4.9%.
The Dakota County Board unanimously approved a $453.5 million budget for 2020, which includes a 2.8% increase in the property tax levy.
The county’s $144.6 million tax levy for next year will be slightly lower than the 2.9% preliminary levy increase that the board approved in September, owing to a few recent reductions, said County Manager Matt Smith.
Commissioners, Smith said, “noted that taxpayers overall were still feeling some pressure” and asked about possible cuts.
New spending includes $650,000 for operational costs at Cahill Place, supportive housing for parents and children that is under construction in Inver Grove Heights, and $400,000 for full-time nurses at the county jail and juvenile correctional facility.
Smith said the County Board favored adding the nurses but “was a little surprised at what the new cost came out to be.”
The county will add 19 employees next year, including 10 in social services, Smith said. “It really relates to keeping up with caseloads,” he said.
Dakota County’s share of the property tax bill will rise next year by $10.35 for a typical $280,200 home that sees a 6.2% increase in market value.
Officials said that Dakota County in 2020 again will have the lowest tax per capita of any county in the state, and the lowest tax rate in the seven-county metro area.
Carver County commissioners unanimously approved a 4.9% levy increase, a hike of $2.8 million, for next year’s $146.1 million budget.
It was the same percentage increase as that approved last year for the 2019 levy. The extra $2.8 million for next year’s budget will raise the county’s property tax share on an average home by $40 a year.
The value of an average home in Carver County grew by 7% this year to $360,700. Commercial property values rose by 6%, and the value of agricultural property stayed the same.
The 2020 budget will neither significantly increase nor decrease county services, said County Administrator David Hemze.
“We’re keeping pace with the cost of doing service,” he said. “One of the challenges we have, of course, is that we’re growing as fast or faster than any county in Minnesota, so it’s a tougher challenge to keep up with the need.”
Salaries and benefits are always the biggest county expense, not just because of pay increases but also the rising cost of health insurance, Hemze said.
The Scott County Board approved a 3.95% increase in the property tax levy, raising the levy to $71.1 million or about $3 million more than this year’s.
The tax levy passed on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Dave Beer casting the lone dissenting vote. The board unanimously approved the county’s $154.2 million budget for 2020.
Next year’s tax levy means the owner of an average-priced $319,000 home will see a $21.36 increase in the county’s portion of their property tax bill, County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion said. The average home saw a 5.9% increase in value this year, compared with 6.5% last year.
Vermillion noted the county’s $400,000 public safety investment in the 2020 budget, which includes two new 911 dispatchers, a new assistant county attorney and two new staffers at the juvenile alternative facility. “I think those are big deals,” she said. “Public safety is a high priority.”
Other increases include more than $100,000 toward new state mandates related to social services, she said.
Included in the $2.5 million Capital Improvement Program are several park upgrades, she said, such as a new maintenance facility at Cleary Lake Regional Park to replace the existing 70-year-old building, and the seal-coating of park trails. Scott County is “still catching up” on capital improvements in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, she said.