Property taxes are rising, and objections are being raised, but in St. Paul and Minneapolis, criticism has come with a twist.
Jeffrey Strand, a longtime activist in the Shingle Creek neighborhood of north Minneapolis, told City Council members a few weeks ago that a property-tax statement he received in November projected a 17.6 percent increase in 2019.
“Nobody in my circle of friends or neighbors can afford that long term and stay in their homes,” Strand said.
He added, however, that he was proud to live in a progressive city and willing to pay for good government measures that include opening housing opportunities to people of color who lost their homes in the mortgage crisis a decade ago.
For some, the tax bite will be acute, but at the Truth in Taxation hearings in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the voices of the tax-weary were swamped by those who came to applaud investments in affordable housing and parks and recreation programming.
They rose to criticize police spending, too.
Across the metro area, owners of median-valued homes in all but a few communities can expect to see tax increases next year. The projections — contained in Truth in Taxation notices sent to property owners last month — take into account the impact of the levy proposals being considered by every taxing jurisdiction plus the market value changes for individual properties.
Not included is the cost of school district spending proposals approved by voters in November. That will come into play in cities like Forest Lake, Robbinsdale, St. Paul and Minneapolis. The typical homeowners in St. Paul and Minneapolis who eyed increases of 7.3 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, now can expect their taxes to rise by more than 10 percent.
In Ramsey and Hennepin counties, people who wished to vent about increases skipped the St. Paul and Minneapolis hearings, for the most part, and directed their ire at county commissioners instead.
A Minneapolis homeowner told the Hennepin County Board that soaring market values in the Longfellow neighborhood fueled a tax hike there. The woman wondered where everyone’s tax money goes: “I suspect that I smell a rat,” she said.
In Ramsey County, Naw Thet Tun Win, who lives on St. Paul’s East Side, said she feared losing her home to foreclosure because of tax hikes.
Typically, government officials don’t engage in a back-and-forth with Truth in Taxation testifiers. But Ramsey County Board Chairman Jim McDonough reminded attendees in a six-minute speech that the county is a “safety net” for people in need of mental health and protective services. He noted, too, that tax burdens can shift between different types of properties.
“Those impact you, and I know those are real impacts,” he said. “But those are pieces of this that are out of our control.”
Values vs. spending
According to the Hennepin County assessor, the 14.2 percent increase in market value for a typical home in the Longfellow neighborhood was second only to that in the Phillips area in 2018 among the 11 Minneapolis communities included in the assessor’s report.
Longfellow homeowners, in turn, are more vulnerable than most to higher tax increases. The Star Tribune did a spot check of Truth in Taxation statements for 10 addresses on 29th Avenue S., south of E. Lake Street, and found that all but one homeowner was looking at a property tax increase of 12 percent or more.
Aaron Twait, research director for the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, used a model to more closely examine two of the 29th Avenue S. houses: one with a projected increase of 6.9 percent and the other with a 13.1 percent increase. He found that 70 percent of the increase for the house with the 6.9 percent hike could be attributed to higher levies by the taxing jurisdictions, and 30 percent from the change in market values. Nearly the opposite was true for the house with the 13.1 percent hike.
Again, the projections do not include the $30 million a year in new school district spending approved by Minneapolis voters in November.
The potential impact of voter-approved school spending can be seen in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan School District. There, voters passed a proposal for facilities improvements in May, meaning the costs could be reflected on Truth in Taxation statements. The typical West St. Paul homeowner faces about a 13 percent property tax increase.
In St. Paul, voters overwhelmingly backed $18.6 million a year in new school spending in November.
At City Hall last week, Mayor Melvin Carter and City Council leaders agreed to trim his proposed 11.5 percent tax levy hike to 10.5 percent as part of a deal that also allows for the hiring of new police officers. Later that night, 55 people addressed council members during the city’s Truth in Taxation hearing, and nearly two-thirds of them objected to the officer hires.
Money could be better spent on social workers and rec center employees, said Laura Jones of the group Root & Restore St. Paul.
At meeting’s end, Council Member Jane Prince said it was important to ease the tax impact on people with fixed incomes. As for the push for new social workers, she told attendees: You might want to check out a county Truth in Taxation hearing, too.