The Hennepin County Board on Tuesday approved a 3.5% maximum property tax levy for 2022 and $1 million to fund an anti-hate initiative.
The levy will fund $900 million of next year's $2.4 billion budget, which will be up for a vote on Dec. 14. The board has raised the property tax levy each year by an average of 4.6% since 2015.
Commissioner Irene Fernando asked the board to consider a 5% tax levy to allow budget flexibility. Several others expressed concern that important health and human service programs financed by the $465 million the county received in federal funding might be discontinued.
Commissioner Jeff Lunde said 3.5% was appropriate because residents may have to pay additional school and local property tax levies.
Last year, the board approved a 0% levy increase for the county's 2021 budget to alleviate financial hardships caused by the pandemic. The county used $465 million in COVID-19-related federal funding to offset the tax loss.
In other actions, the board increased the funding for an anti-hate initiative from $200,000 to $1 million. The program will collect information about incidents, improve police investigations and develop a reporting hotline.
In 2020, Minnesota law enforcement reported 190 hate crimes to the FBI, 50 more than the previous year. Lunde said bias incidents are underreported and difficult to prosecute. "The initiative needs to be driven by the community," he said. "There also has to be trust in the reporting system. We need to develop an awareness campaign."
The levy and anti-hate initiative were approved 6-0. Commissioner Kevin Anderson was absent.