Property taxpayers in Hennepin County will almost certainly see increases in 2016 nearly triple what they have grown accustomed to in recent years.
County Administrator David Hough on Tuesday proposed an increase of 4.5 percent, $31.2 million, over the current year’s property tax collections. In contrast, for the past six years, taxpayers in the county have seen increases that averaged 1.3 percent.
“The proposed property tax levy reflects significant demands for quality services we provide to our residents,” Hough said. “It is not insignificant, but necessary to maintain the current level of services.”
While Hough presented the number during his annual budget speech to the County Board, he and his staff have worked behind the scenes with the seven board members so the proposal didn’t hit them unexpectedly.
His pitch signaled the beginning of the tax-setting sessions.
The county’s departments will make their own cases to the board in a series of public meetings in the coming months. The first is Wednesday. The budget will be adopted in December.
While the board will make adjustments, the ultimate budget tends to hew closely to the administrator’s recommendation. What Hough’s proposal would mean: The owner of a median-valued suburban home would see a property tax increase of $41 in the county portion of their bill, taking into account an anticipated market-rate increase.
In Minneapolis, the median-valued home would see an increase of $37.
County Budget Director Dave Lawless said the budget reflected the need for catching up in some areas where spending was deferred during the recession that struck in 2008. Notable among those is an increase in Human Services staffing, especially in child protective services.
County Board Chair Jan Callison said the higher percentage increase is a concern because “it’s going to have an impact on residents and business,” but she said the demands for services are “pretty strong.”
Among those demands will be county employee salary increases. “We need to pay them their value,” she said.
Hough proposed increasing the county workforce to the full-time equivalent of 7,966 employees, an increase of 198 from the current year.
He drew broad outlines for the budget, not specific departmental numbers, but said “changing legislative requirements, including changes to the child protection system, critical staffing shortages to address increased service demands, and support for new strategic county initiatives all require more staff in the coming year.”
The budget reflects the county’s mission to “enhance the health, safety and quality of life of our communities,” he said.
The county’s proposed budget is $1.9 billion for next year. The number includes an operating budget of $1.6 billion, an increase of $86 million from the current year.
The capital, brick-and-mortar, portion was proposed at $286 million, an increase of $23 million over the current year.
At the same time, Hough said the county expects to see a decrease in federal and state funding next year, from $428 million to $400 million.