The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday, in a rare move, approved a property tax levy increase for 2018 that was lower than the preliminary figure set in September.
Commissioners of five metro area counties, including Hennepin, on Tuesday finalized their spending plans and tax levies for next year. The Anoka County Board took action last week, and the Scott County Board is expected to act next Tuesday.
Hennepin County commissioners, on a 6-1 vote, approved a tax levy hike of 3.84 percent, a full percentage point lower than the 4.95 percent figure proposed by county administrators in September. The county's total budget will be $2.4 billion, financed in part with $788.6 million in taxes.
County officials used a variety of cost-cutting measures to reduce the levy, Board Chairwoman Jan Callison said. The board made tough decisions on personnel and technology, she said, and was able to use $2 million from the sale of its Century Plaza building to decrease the levy. "We prioritize carefully to balance the needs of residents and clients with fiscal responsibility to taxpayers," Callison said.
Ramsey and Dakota
In Ramsey County, commissioners approved a biennial budget that will increase by 3.3 percent ($22.8 million) in 2018 and 3.1 percent ($22.3 million) in 2019. The tax levy, which funds about 42 percent of the budget, will rise by 4.3 percent in each of the next two years.
Some of the tax increase was expected to fall disproportionately on the county's poorest neighborhoods because of property values finally rising after the Great Recession. Among them is St. Paul's North End, represented by Commissioner Janice Rettman, who cast the sole dissenting vote on the budget.
The biennial budget includes initiatives to reduce homelessness and address a surge in foster care placements, improve security at the jail, update the Sheriff's Office radio system, and advance transit planning.
Dakota County commissioners approved a 2.9 percent levy increase for 2018, which will fund $137 million of its total budget of $372 million.
But officials said that the overall levy will rise by just 1.9 percent when taking into account its reduced regional rail tax levy after the break up of the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), a metrowide funding agency. The county will gain up to $17 million from its quarter-cent sales tax and $20 excise tax on new car sales, money that once went to CTIB. "This is going to give us more resources to work on our transportation needs," Dakota County Manager Matt Smith said.
The average Dakota County homeowner will pay $605 in property taxes on an average house valued at $243,900, an increase of $13.
Washington and Carver
In Washington County, a confluence of expenses drove a 6.69 percent increase in the tax levy, the largest there in several years. Officials estimated that a fifth of that hike will be funded through $425 million in new commercial and housing construction.
The $103.5 million levy for 2018 will cover some familiar challenges, such as rapid growth in services the state requires counties to fund. New expenses include the return of the Lake Elmo library to the county system, an increase in employee wages and benefits, and road improvements related to population surges.
The board's 5-0 vote came after two hearings during which no residents spoke. "I hope the public feels we're paying particular attention and being prudent and cautious with taxpayer dollars," said Commissioner Fran Miron.
Carver County commissioners on Tuesday approved a 3.9 percent levy increase for 2018, which will fund nearly half the county's total $124 million budget. Yet, officials said, real-world impact on residents should remain minimal — limited to an inflationary 1.9 percent increase — due to additional revenue from construction projects.
A new transportation sales tax and wheelage tax hike will rake in an additional $3.6 million in revenue, contributing to slightly decreased taxes for average-value commercial and agricultural properties.
The average homeowner will see a $22 property tax increase on a house valued at $320,700 when compared to last year, said County Administrator Dave Hemze.
Meanwhile on Friday, Anoka County commissioners unanimously approved a 3.7 percent tax levy increase, the county's biggest hike since 2011. The levy will fund about $130 million of the county's 2018 budget of $289 million.
County officials said the hike will fund new positions in the Sheriff's Office, including more detention deputies. The increase also will finance four new 911 dispatcher positions.
For the owner of an average Anoka County home valued at $214,800, that means paying about $24 more a year in county property taxes.
Staff writers Erin Adler, Hannah Covington, Kevin Giles and Liz Sawyer contributed to this story.