The Anoka County Board on Friday approved a 3.97% property tax levy increase to help fund its 2020 budget of $335.1 million, whittling the levy increase again after cutting the initial 8% proposed levy increase down to 4.97% this fall.
County staffers and department heads decided they could trim the levy further by tapping into a reserve fund. Commissioner Mandy Meisner said she feared that might lead to a bigger levy increase in 2021 and a heavier burden on taxpayers. She argued that 1% difference could jeopardize the level of services offered throughout the county, and asked colleagues to reconsider 4.97%, the preliminary levy approved back in September.
But other commissioners said they wanted tax relief for residents now rather than down the road. Meisner was the only commissioner to vote against the levy increase.
"It's a bit of a risk," said Commissioner Mike Gamache, adding he's confident the 1% cut won't hurt the county. "It's always good to be able to reduce if possible."
The 3.97% levy increase equates to a tax hike of roughly $25 on the average home valued at $232,535. The county's portion of the property tax bill for that average home will be $725, about a third of which will go toward human services, including social services, economic assistance and public health; about a quarter to public safety, including the sheriff, corrections and dispatch; and a fifth for roads and bridges.
County officials said budget priorities included public safety and the hiring of more 911 operators; updating cybersecurity; and maintaining the current level of services.
Property taxes account for about half the county's 2020 revenue, according to Patti Hetrick, county budget director. The rest comes from other sources, such as fees and state and federal grants.
This year's 4.9% levy increase, the county's biggest hike in a decade, was designed to cover public safety and increases in health care premiums.