Ramsey County leaders are considering raising property taxes in 2022 after deciding last year to avoid levying an additional hardship on residents already struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A proposed 1.5% property tax levy increase means the owner of a median-value home in St. Paul — worth $228,700 — will pay $112 more than in 2021 for the county portion of their tax bill. The owner of a median-value, $296,500 home in Roseville will see a $152 increase.

Ramsey County Manager Ryan O'Connor and other county staff unveiled the proposed 2022 county budget at Tuesday's board meeting. Like other local governments, keeping the property tax levy flat in 2021 meant making cuts at a time when the pandemic was already squeezing revenue.

"As we continue to fight through and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget provides support for our residents, businesses and other stakeholders — with a focus on those who are the most vulnerable — while incorporating the lessons and improvements from this past year-and-a-half to our service delivery, community engagement and racial equity," O'Connor said in a statement.

Under the proposal, the county will spend about $773 million next year. Less than half, or about $331 million, will come from property taxes, and the rest from federal and state funds and charges for services.

O'Connor said the county is relying on millions of dollars in federal emergency COVID-19 aid to help fill some budget gaps over the next few years. The county, which budgets biannually, is projecting a 4.54% levy increase in 2023.

For the first time, the county is activating its Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) levy in 2022, which will raise an estimated $11.1 million that can be used for affordable housing. All Twin Cities metro counties already collect similar levies.

Taking into account the county, HRA and regional rail tax levies, the owner of a median-value St. Paul home would see a $1,053 county tax bill next year. The Roseville median-value homeowner would see a $1,538.77 bill.

Cities and school districts also collect property taxes, which are affected by rising market values. St. Paul, which did not raise its 2021 property tax levy, is considering a 6.9 % increase in 2022. Maplewood is considering about a 5% increase, while Roseville is weighing a 4.9% jump, according to a budget presentation this week.

Ramsey County employs more than 4,000 people and its budget funds a wide variety of services, including roads and public works; libraries; parks; elections; public assistance; public health; the county attorney's office; the sheriff's office; community corrections and the 911 call center.

O'Connor said the county remains committed to its "Transforming Systems Together" effort launched a few years ago that calls for reducing the justice system response and instead focusing on building community wellness and reducing racial disparities. Examples of that work include eliminating some fines and fees in the criminal justice system and permanently closing the county's juvenile detention campus at Boys Totem Town and investing in community-based alternatives.

"We as an organization have not wavered from the direction we have been on, regardless of the choppy seas around us," O'Connor said.

Commissioners mostly listened to the high-level presentation, asking just a few questions. They will drill deeper into the budget during a series of meetings this fall.

"The board looks forward to reviewing this proposed budget in detail in the weeks and months ahead," said Commissioner and Budget Committee Chairwoman Victoria Reinhardt, in a statement. "In each budget, we strive to balance needed services with our community's ability to pay for them."

County leaders will hold two public hearings on the budget on Sept. 14 and Nov. 29 before passing the final budget in December.

Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037