Will Mayor R.T. Rybak use his final budget address this week to lower the city's property tax levy?
It's a question likely on the minds of some taxpayers, who have endured years of increases under Rybak's administration. Cutting the levy would be unprecedented in recent city history, though Hennepin County did it in 2010.
City leaders have frequently blamed cuts in state aid for the need to raise taxes, but Minneapolis won a 20 percent aid increase at the Legislature this year. Couple that with a council action this spring to set aside $7 million in unspent funds in order to keep the levy flat.
"Keeping property taxes down is one of the mayor's highest priorities in this budget," said Rybak spokesman John Stiles, otherwise declining to say whether the 2014 budget would be feature a tax cut. Rybak will deliver the budget at Thrivent Financial auditorium on Thursday.
The levy was increased 1.7 percent in 2013 and zero percent in 2012. Property taxes now account for about 45 percent of the city's general fund revenues. That's up from 29 percent in 2003.
State aid increased under DFL rule at the Legislature this year, however, from $64 million to $76 million. It was the first aid increase in five years, though a far cry from 2002's $111 million total.
Rybak demurred in April when asked about the notion of lowering the property tax levy, rather than keeping it flat.
"I think that would be very difficult considering the challenges we have," Rybak said. "But I will try everything possible to take some pressure off of property taxes."
Council President Barb Johnson, however, was more optimistic when asked about it in April.
"We'd like to go under zero [percent levy]," Johnson said. "Go to a negative number. Because we are really, at this point, out of whack with some of our adjacent neighbors, and that's of concern to us."
Johnson could not recall a negative levy in her 16 years on the council.