Hennepin County Administrator Richard Johnson recommended Tuesday that the county cut its spending -- and rein in its tax levy -- for the third straight year.
Johnson presented his 2012 budget proposal to the County Board in a thoughtful address that argued the county's residents get their money's worth of services and that Hennepin has kept costs low through planning and hard work by county employees.
"For all the talk about taxes, there is little talk about what each resident receives for what they pay," he said.
The numbers, please
Johnson called for a spending plan of $1.56 billion that's 3.13 percent lower than this year's budget, or $50 million smaller. To help pay for it, he's proposing a property tax levy of $668.4 million, about $1 million less than this year -- a levy decrease of 0.15 percent. The board voted earlier this month to raise next year's levy no higher than 1 percent.
How can my taxes go up?
Changes in how the state's market value program will be funded means that many owners of Hennepin County homes valued at more than $183,000 -- as well as those who own commercial properties -- will pay more in taxes. Owners of lower-valued homes will probably get some tax relief. Tax bills also depend on the budgets for your city and school district.
Less from state
Johnson said that Hennepin, Minnesota's largest county, will lose $33 million in state revenue this year and another $20 million next year. That's mostly because of ongoing cuts in local government aid and changes in how the state funds its market value program for homeowners.
Up and down
Areas of county government operations that would see higher spending next year, under Johnson's budget, include general government (6 percent more), health (4 percent more) and libraries (1 percent more). Spending cuts would be made in public works (7 percent less), human services (2 percent less) and public safety (0.6 percent less).
Johnson said that Hennepin's seven service centers are seeing fewer transactions and therefore taking in less money. So he's proposing to close the one in Eden Prairie in early 2012. His budget also would cut 127 positions, mostly through attrition.
Capital plan slashed
Hennepin is paying more each year to finance its debt, Johnson said. To meet those rising costs, he proposed reducing next year's capital budget by $61.6 million, a cut of 34 percent. He also outlined a five-year plan to reduce taxes needed to pay off debt.
Johnson's budget message kicks off three months of deliberation by commissioners, who will use the proposal as a springboard for spending decisions. After a series of hearings and a truth-in-taxation meeting Nov. 29, the board is expected to finish the 2012 budget and corresponding property tax levy on Dec. 13.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455