The Anoka County Board has proposed a maximum tax levy for 2016 that would represent a 2.49 percent increase over this year's amount, saying that the county needs the money to meet the costs of new legislation and human services mandates.
The board last week approved a preliminary levy ceiling of about $122.4 million, up from about $119.5 million. The final amount, which can't go higher, will be adopted Dec. 4. While the county's proposal represents an increase over last year, residents' tax bills may go up or down depending on tax decisions by other jurisdictions and other factors.
"Residents won't notice any big sweeping increases in their taxes," said Rhonda Sivarajah, county chair. "We have really worked hard to provide services in the most efficient manner possible."
The proposed increase would help the county anticipate the cost of new legislation and the transfer of costs from the state to the county for mandated services related to children, vulnerable adults and people with mental illness, she said.
"Caring for our citizens, especially our most vulnerable, is our top priority," Sivarajah said in a news release. "We are here to safeguard our senior citizens and children. However, making changes at the state level while asking counties to pay for it puts us in this difficult position."
Commissioner Scott Schulte called the increase "modest" compared to those in nearby counties, such as Hennepin.
"I still think we are as efficient as any organization I've been with or worked for, and I'm impressed by that," Schulte said last week.
As part of the budget, the county would set aside about $1 million for costs associated with the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, Sivarajah said. If the center determines that a person is ready to be discharged, then the county could be responsible for the cost of their care, she said.
"The county share for regional treatment center costs has increased significantly," Sivarajah said. "In 2008, Anoka County paid 10 percent of the cost. Today, the county could pay the entire cost, which is more than $1,300 per day and that depends on the length of the patient's stay."
For the past five years, the Anoka County Board has kept its levy consistently among the lowest in the state, Sivarajah said. Starting in 2012, it decreased the county's portion of property taxes for three years in a row. During that period, the board reduced its levy by about $11 million. In 2015, the board increased the levy by less than 1 percent.