Hennepin County proposes 0.93% levy increase

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 25, 2012 - 11:08 PM

In his final presentation, Richard Johnson proposes 0.93 percent and goes in depth on budget pressures and shifting demographics.

Along with warnings about continued revenue woes, Hennepin County on Tuesday proposed a $1.75 billion budget for 2013, an increase of 1.2 percent from this year.

The proposed property tax levy increase is 0.93 percent for next year, just under the 1 percent cap imposed by the board earlier. The action won't be final until the board conducts hearings and adopts the budget later this year.

The county is proposing a property tax levy of $674.6 million in 2013. The 2012 general levy was $668.4 million.

In his final presentation before his retirement at the end of the year, county Administrator Richard Johnson talked of suffocating budget pressures since the economic collapse in 2008 and the potential for ongoing problems as the state faces a shortfall and the federal government looks to make dramatic cuts next year.

The county provides much of the social services safety net, so with economic constraints comes an increase in the need for social services, Johnson said.

"The county continues to fund what is essential, but there is less flexibility," he said. "We can cut back only so far before services residents have come to expect can no longer be provided at the same level year after year."

Johnson talked of demographic shifts with a declining white population and increasing Hispanic, Asian and mixed-race populations. "This will bring into sharp contrast the needs of an increasingly diverse young generation and a largely older white population," he said.

He also said the county will respond to technological advances by streamlining work and eliminating rules and unnecessary processes. The county also will pursue relationships with other public jurisdictions, nonprofits and businesses to coordinate resources. Among the changes is the expected merger of the medical examiner's office with Dakota and Scott counties.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin noted that the effect of potential federal cuts could not be overstated. Federal cuts of $600 billion are being discussed for coming years as a means to trim the deficit.

The board will adopt the budget in December. The public is invited to comment on the proposed levy and budget at the truth-in-taxation hearing at 6 p.m. on Nov. 27 in the County Board room. Public hearings on the budget begin at 9 a.m. on Oct. 10 in the board room on the 24th floor of the Government Center.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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