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Many Woodbury homeowners were expected to have the same tax burden next year as in 2012. But they now might be hit with a slight increase.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Plan poses uncertainty for Woodbury taxpayers

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE
  • Star Tribune
  • September 28, 2012 - 6:35 PM

Woodbury had what seemed a good plan at the start: Increase the city tax levy by 3.2 percent in 2013 yet see the owner of an average-valued home pay the same in city taxes as in 2012.

Other properties -- commercial/industrial, for example -- would shoulder a greater share of the property tax burden, easing pressure on the average homeowner.

But this month, just before the City Council's annual vote setting the maximum for what next year's levy might be, officials learned that Woodbury would be getting less money than expected from the metro-wide fiscal-disparities pool.

For the average-valued home, that may mean a tax hike, after all. To be specific, a $15 or 1.6 percent increase in the city's share of the property tax bill.

The City Council, for now, has kept alive the original proposal for a 3.2 percent city levy increase. But deliberations continue. Council members plan to revisit the issue during a workshop session on Oct. 17, City Administrator Clint Gridley said.

Four other Washington County communities contacted last week had no similar surprises to report during their preliminary 2013 levy discussions this month.

Cities make up one part of the property-tax equation. There are school levies, too, plus county spending. This month, the County Board voted to hold the line on its levy.

Market value changes also figure into tax-bill calculations, and that is where the Woodbury homeowner could catch a break. According to the county assessor, the median-valued home in the city dropped in value by 5.4 percent in 2012, while the average commercial/industrial property in Woodbury increased in value by 0.7 percent, making businesses more likely to pay a bigger share of next year's tax bill.

Woodbury

3.2%

Change in tax levy

$29M

Total levy

61,961

City population

Protect and serve: As the city weighs how to handle the unexpected budget twist on the revenue side, its current 2013 spending plans include the addition of two police officers/firefighters. The city has integrated police, fire and EMS operations, creating a need for officers who are cross-trained as firefighters or paramedics. Elsewhere, the city plans to eliminate a building inspector position through retirement, but citizens should not see any diminished services in that department or in any others, said Clint Gridley, city administrator.

COTTAGE GROVE

0%

Change in tax levy

$12.2M

Total levy

34,589

City population

Holding steady: The city approached this year's budget with an eye to keeping the tax rate near the average rate of 36 similarly sized communities in the metro area, city Finance Director Robin Roland said. Cottage Grove's tax rate was slightly below the average in 2012. The city will add one additional staff member in each of its fire, park maintenance and IT departments, and is aiming to speed response times for fire/EMS operations.

OAKDALE

0%

Change in tax levy

$9.9M

Total levy

27,378

City population

Trimming back: For a second consecutive year the city will reduce its levy, although the $1,350 cut is so small that the change still calculates to 0.0 percent. But keeping the levy flat means Oakdale has inflationary costs to absorb. So the city plans not to replace a police department support-staff member who is retiring and will use the savings to cover rising fuel and vehicle maintenance costs, city Finance Director Suzy Warren said. Oakdale also plans to eliminate two clean-up days for the collection of items that haulers typically won't pick up.

FOREST LAKE

0.3%

Change in tax levy

$7.2M

Total levy

18,375

City population

Taking it to the street: For the most part, the 2013 budget is a "hold the line" proposal, said city Finance Director Ellen Paulseth. In separate but related news, however, the city will consider adopting franchise fees to pay for street improvements, she said.

STILLWATER

1.6%

Change in tax levy

$10.4M

Total levy

18,225

City population

Little change: This year's budget directive was to "hold the line as much as possible," said city Finance Director Sharon Harrison. She kept her responses quick and to the point: Any new services, programs or hires in 2013? "No," she said. Anything going missing? "No," she replied.

ANTHONY LONETREE

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