The Hennepin County Board is considering keeping its property tax levy flat for next year.
Commissioners received a briefing Thursday on what County Administrator David Hough will be proposing next week on ways to manage the 2021 budget. Hough said final costs were still in flux because of potential expenses related to COVID-19.
A zero percent increase in next year’s property tax levy would be the lowest rate since the County Board cut the property tax levy by 1% in 2010. The board has raised Hennepin County’s property tax levy each year by an average of 4.6% since 2015; this year’s tax levy is 4.75% higher than last year’s.
County officials have already taken steps this year to reduce expenses, including hiring freezes, contract and spending management, and employee leaves.
The county has spent more than $183 million of federal funding it received for COVID-19 expenditures, but officials are concerned that more than $50 million will be needed next year to quarantine the homeless, distribute vaccines and conduct COVID testing.
Hough said he will be proposing a variety of cost-saving measures, such as the elimination of 150 employees through attrition, cancellation of county leases, reductions in capital improvement projects and use of reserve accounts.
The county has spent more than $20 million on housing and treatment of the homeless who may have COVID-19. Hough said officials have been considering buying apartment buildings or improving existing homeless shelters rather than spending money on leasing space.
The county also will consider using savings from negotiated health premiums and mandatory time off for employees next year, he said.
Ramsey County officials two weeks ago proposed dropping the county’s projected 4.5% tax levy increase to zero in response to the financial fallout from the pandemic and civil unrest this summer. To close the funding gap, officials proposed trimming about $20 million from the budget, tapping some reserve funds and delaying some hiring and equipment upgrades.