Proposed property tax hikes in Minneapolis and St. Paul will hit homeowners hardest in less wealthy pockets of the urban core, where fervent demand for low-cost houses is driving up values.
Minneapolis and St. Paul officials say median-valued homes will see a 7.8% and 6.3% increase, respectively, in the city portion of their tax bills next year. But roughly one in six residential properties in the two cities will see a spike of more than 15% next year, based on a Star Tribune analysis of Minneapolis and Ramsey County projected tax data.
The value of those homes is less than each city’s median, on average. And the houses — which include rentals — are generally in areas with low but rising values, such as the East Side, North End and Frogtown areas of St. Paul, and the North Side, Powderhorn and Phillips areas of Minneapolis.
The value of Laura Fitzsimmons’ home near Lake Phalen in St. Paul has risen 45% since 2015 to $169,000. Her city tax bill has nearly doubled in five years and — factoring schools, county and other taxes — the total bill is up by about $1,000.
“I will be looking very carefully this election at each council member,” said Fitzsimmons, who is retired and lives on a fixed income. “The residents of the city and county are not a limitless pool of finances.”
Fitzsimmons said many people in her greater neighborhood were low-income when they bought their homes, and their incomes haven’t kept pace with property taxes. The hot housing market also makes it impractical to move.
“Just because your home can be valued at a certain rate doesn’t mean you can afford to leave it,” Fitzsimmons said. “People are saying, ‘Isn’t this funny. My house is worth all this much, but there’s no way I can go anyplace.’ ”
The Star Tribune’s analysis relied on Minneapolis and Ramsey County projections about how proposed levies in the two cities would affect individual residential parcels. It assumed St. Paul would not have to raise its levy more dramatically to pay garbage haulers, a possible outcome if the city votes down a referendum on organized trash collection this November.
Homeowners seeing big spikes in tax bills can get some relief from the state, however.
The state offers a special tax refund of up to $1,000 if homeowners see a property tax jump of more than 12% — and $100 — in one year. More than 36,000 people took advantage of that refund in 2017, according to the Department of Revenue.
A separate, more popular refund program can give back up to $2,700 to homeowners whose property taxes exceed a specific share of their income.
“It really is trying to ensure ... taxpayers, when their local governments are adding services or providing additional services, that they have a little bit of help when those property taxes come to them,” said state Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly.
Many property owners will also see more modest increases, or none at all.
More than a quarter of residential properties in each city will have bills remain essentially flat, or decrease.
And people who own higher-value homes are paying more in taxes.
The owner-occupant of a $500,000 home in Uptown owed more than $2,800 in city taxes this year, compared with more than the $700 bill for a $150,000 home just off central Lake Street.
Minneapolis Council Member Linea Palmisano, who chairs the city’s budget committee, said she is encouraged to see property values rebounding from the housing market collapse in areas highlighted in the analysis.
She said the city has also made additional infrastructure investments in these areas over the last several years.
Regarding the city’s spending, Palmisano pushed unsuccessfully this year to switch the city’s annual budgeting cycle to a biennial one.
She said this would give city leaders more time to fully assess the budget, rather than focusing largely on new spending.
“We’re not paying attention to the entire rollover, year to year, of the budget,” Palmisano said. “And if we want to make meaningful change … in one of our big spending areas, whether it’s public works or the police department, you have to be willing and have the time to unpack that and see what that spend is for.”
Some homeowners say the property tax hikes are a good reason for fresh leadership at City Hall.
The value of Jean Hawkins-Koch’s home in the Shingle Creek area of north Minneapolis has risen from $269,000 to $350,000 in the last four years. The total tax bill, including other jurisdictions, has risen about 40%.
Hawkins-Koch, who runs a “Flip the Council” Facebook page aimed at ousting the entire Minneapolis City Council, said history tells her to expect to continue getting hammered by rising property taxes.
“I don’t know how we’re going to continue to live there with these tax increases. They’re just not sustainable,” Hawkins-Koch said. “Anyone who has a ‘regular job’ doesn’t get these kind of increases in their paycheck.”