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The board’s vote to make zero percent the ceiling for the tax levy means that while commissioners may reduce the levy while hammering out the biennial budget this fall, they can’t raise the levy beyond this year’s level.
The 2012-13 budget contained tax levy increases of 1.7 percent in 2012, and 2.7 percent this year.
County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt proposed no tax levy increases for her proposed 2014-15 budget in July, saying that $20.1 million in additional spending can be largely covered by increases in state and federal funding, along with department fees.
Kleinschmidt said that higher spending in the next two years is partly the result of pent-up demand after years of flat or reduced funding.
The proposed budget includes funding for a new computer-aided dispatch system, a sheriff’s officer to process crime scenes, expansion of child protection services and a staffer to help veterans secure their benefits.
Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt thanked the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton for sending more state money to the county to cover the cost of state mandates, but noted that state funding remains at 2006 levels.
“We still have a ways to go,” she said.
Commissioner Janice Rettman, a perennial budget hawk, said she was pleased. “We have lived up to our expectations of ourselves ... as agents of the citizens,” she said.
The board will continue to work on the budget throughout the fall before final approval, slated for Dec. 17. A public hearing on the budget will be held Nov. 25 at Central High School in St. Paul.
Anoka County, which turned heads when it repealed its wheelage tax and later declined a shot at $1 million in Statewide Health Improvement Program funds, on Tuesday voted to cut its property-tax levy by $1 million.
The proposed 2014 budget of $278,047,330 should result in property-tax reductions for most low- and moderate-value Anoka County homes, the county said. The new levy levels will be comparable to those of a decade ago.
“This is the result of innovation at work,” said Rhonda Sivarajah, county board chairwoman. She said that for the third consecutive year, the board has worked to “right”-size county government, while taking advantage of technological innovations.
In July, the county board repealed the wheelage tax, effective Jan. 1, at a time when other metro counties have adopted the tax. Later, the county’s human services committee voted not to apply for SHIP grants, worth up to $1.3 million and used to fight child obesity, promote physical activity and decrease exposure to second-hand smoke. Sivarajah said at the time that the grants aren’t a wise use of taxpayer money, that they’re used for developing policy and there’s “not a measurable outcome.” Others disagreed with that position.
As the county announced the levy reduction on Tuesday, Sivarahah said: “Every day our actions reaffirm our commitment to our mission to be respectful, innovative and fiscally responsible.”
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