After holding the line on taxes for a couple of years, Ramsey County officials on Tuesday proposed a budget for 2016-17 that includes 2.8 percent property tax levy increase for each of the next two years to support a slightly bigger spending plan.
In a presentation to county commissioners, County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt said that the budget she’s recommending blends prudence with improved services to meet the needs of a growing population.
She noted that Ramsey County was the fifth-fastest growing county in Minnesota from 2013 to 2014, when the population rose by 3.6 percent, and that Ramsey was the only metro-area county to see three straight years of rising job growth.
Kleinschmidt said the biennial budget reflected the goals set last winter by the County Board to improve residents’ health and safety, encourage neighborhood prosperity, increase economic opportunity and run a tight fiscal ship.
“The property tax levy is in line with inflation, and it shows stability and predictability following two years of no levy increases,” she said.
“I strongly believe this proposal balances our community’s needs and wants with our ability to pay, and it puts residents first because people are our future.”
Under her plan, property taxes would make up 43.4 percent of next year’s revenue, about the same as this year’s; that’s followed by state and federal funding, 27.1 percent, and service charges, 20.5 percent. This year’s $623 million county budget would grow by $18.2 million (to $641 million) next year and $13.9 million (to $655 million) in 2017.
Areas of increased funding include probation services for specialized courts; child protection and support services in the county attorney’s office; a new veterans services officer to help with benefits; staffers for Boys Totem Town, the county’s residential facility for adolescent delinquents; the new county library in Shoreview, and absentee ballots and electronic poll books for the 2016 election.
Jim McDonough, chairman of the County Board, called the budget “a good proposal,” but it will be months before the board votes to approve the final version. In the meantime, public hearings will be held on Sept. 15 at the county courthouse and Nov. 30 at Central High School in St. Paul. The board will set the maximum 2016 tax levy on Sept. 22 and approve the budget on Dec. 15.