The Ramsey County Board finalized the second year of its biennial budget Tuesday, approving a higher spending plan for 2013 but with a property tax levy increase -- 1.7 percent -- at the same level as the one passed for this year.
The action comes a week after the St. Paul City Council passed a 2013 city budget with a 1.9 percent increase.
The St. Paul school board also approved a tax plan Tuesday night fulfilling its promise to limit the district's levy increase to 6.1 percent -- the amount raised by a successful Nov. 6 ballot vote.
Even with levy increases from all three jurisdictions, Chris Samuel, the county's property records and revenue manager, has said the owner of a median-value home can expect a property-tax decrease next year because commercial properties and large apartment buildings are taking bigger shares of the tax burden.
The county's 1.7 percent levy increase is its lowest hike in a decade. The levy will help fund a $590.3 million budget that is about $16 million more than in 2012, but slightly less than the county's 2011 budget of $590.5 million, county finance director Lee Mehrkens said.
Because of a steep decline in state aid and relatively flat federal funding, property taxes will pay for a larger part of the county's costs, which have increased partly due to inflation, Mehrkens said. Savings have come from a reduction of nearly 65 full-time county positions since 2011, mostly through attrition.
Some positions that had been cut have been restored in next year's budget, notably five jobs in the county attorney's office and some staff jobs with Boys Totem Town, the county's juvenile correctional facility, Mehrkens said.
The St. Paul School District levy plan follows voters agreeing in November to renew $30 million per year in spending for all-day kindergarten and other programs, and to add $9 million per year for technology-enhanced learning.
The district had the authority to increase its levy by 10 percent, according to state Department of Education calculations. But board members agreed in September to keep any increase to no more than what was before voters in November. Had voters rejected the plan, drastic cuts could have followed.