Hennepin County Administrator David Hough proposed a $2.5 billion budget for 2020 to the County Board on Tuesday, which included a 4.75% property tax levy increase.
In making his presentation, Hough emphasized that the proposed budget focuses on reducing racial disparities in education, health, housing and justice. It also addresses the county’s continued efforts to improve the child protection system.
The budget is about $90 million more than this year. The board will approve the maximum tax levy on Tuesday and finalize next year’s budget in December.
“This is not just about numbers and a budget,” said Hough. “It’s about our vision for 2020.”
A property tax levy increase of 4.75% would generate more than $30 million in revenue to help fund ongoing needs in child protection, personnel expenses, and expansion and improvements to county service centers. Property taxes paid for one-third of this year’s county budget. The county approved a 5.25% tax levy increase for 2019.
If the board approves the preliminary levy hike of 4.75%, the owner of a $281,000 house — the median value for the county — would pay about $60 more next year in county property taxes.
The proposed budget includes funding to add 36 full-time equivalent employees to the county’s existing workforce of 9,100 employees. Major budget drivers include:
• $71 million for road, bridge and trail infrastructure.
• $284 million for light-rail transit infrastructure.
• $9 million for environment and energy, community works investments and public works facilities.
• $27 million for public safety and judiciary facilities and infrastructure.
• $26 million for health facilities, including NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, the regional medical examiner’s facility and Hennepin County Healthcare.
• $78 million for libraries and general office facilities.
Before the budget presentation, the board held a public hearing on affordable housing. Speakers representing the Somali community, homeless advocates and a religious group thanked the board for its commitment to increasing affordable housing. The budget includes $4 million for 1,000 new affordable housing units, but several of the speakers said the county needs about 2,000 more units.
Hough highlighted some of the successes the county has achieved in reducing racial disparities. Nearly 40% of the county’s 1,440 hires the last two years were people of color. He also discussed programs to lower evictions and serve culturally specific patients seeking health services.
“Reducing racial disparities should be in the center of everything we do,” he said. “We take risks and learn from our mistakes.”