For many in St. Paul, taxes to go down

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 24, 2012 - 9:54 PM

Property taxes would fall even if school levy is OK'd, officials say.

The owner of a typical St. Paul home can expect to pay less in property taxes in 2013 even if voters approve a Nov. 6 school district levy request, city leaders learned Monday.

The total tax bill for a median-valued $133,700 home would drop from $2,144 this year to $2,023 in 2013 -- a 5.6 percent decrease, Ramsey County's revenue manager told a joint city, county and school committee.

Anne Carroll, a school board member, listened to Monday's presentation as a member of the joint panel. After receiving assurances that the projections took into account the cost of the Nov. 6 excess-levy request, she said: "In the end, even that total looks pretty nice."

The county was unable to project Monday what would happen to taxes if the levy request were defeated.

The idea of a tax savings may seem counterintuitive when one considers the school district levy alone would increase by 6.1 percent if the Nov. 6 ballot question is approved.

But the blow to single-family homeowners is softened by other factors, including other properties taking a bigger share of the tax burden -- the median-valued commercial property, for example, would pay 7.4 percent more in taxes in 2013.

Another mitigating factor is an infusion of additional revenues from the metrowide fiscal-disparities pool.

St. Paul and Ramsey County have proposed relatively modest levy increases of 1.9 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. The city's median-valued home also was hit with a 10.4 percent value reduction from 2011 to 2012.

The school district is asking voters to renew funding for all-day kindergarten and early childhood programs, among other initiatives, and to reinvest in classroom technology.

Typically, property owners statewide must wait until Truth in Taxation statements are mailed in November to know what the combined tax-levy impacts might be for the following year. Even then, individual notices do not include excess-levy information.

Monday's presentation by Chris Samuel, county manager of Property Records and Revenue, was made possible by the unique nature of St. Paul's joint committee -- created by state law in the wake of a school excess-levy defeat in 1992.

Samuel said the tax-bill estimate for St. Paul's median-valued home assumes a 10.4 percent decrease in value -- from $149,300 in 2011 to $133,700 in 2012. But percentage declines are not the same for single-family properties citywide.

In the Frogtown area, for example, the median-valued home dropped in value by 19.9 percent this year. In the St. Anthony Park area, the decline was 1.2 percent.

According to a breakdown of potential tax impacts by neighborhood, owners of median-valued homes in 12 of the city's 17 planning districts can expect tax reductions.

In those where taxes on a median-valued home would increase, St. Anthony Park shows the biggest rise at $255, or 6.9 percent, the estimates show.

Last week, the school district pledged to increase its tax levy by no more than the amount to be raised by a successful excess-levy vote.

If the excess levy fails, the district could raise its levy by about 3.7 percent without seeking voter approval. But the district's total tax revenues for 2013 would drop sharply because it no longer would collect any excess-levy dollars. Drastic cuts probably would follow.

Samuel said he did not yet have the information needed to calculate tax bills in the event of an excess-levy defeat.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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