Armed with a property-tax notice signaling a nearly $500 increase for 2016, Eugénie de Rosier went to the St. Paul school board this month seeking relief.
She understands district needs, she said, but hopes for “wiggle room” in the eventual vote deciding what she and others will pay.
“People should speak up,” she told board members. “I would like a break.”
For most metro area homeowners, property taxes are on the rise, with school districts responsible for many of the bigger increases.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Shakopee school district, where voters last spring backed a $102.5 million bond to fund a high school addition plus a $2.5 million-a-year technology levy.
After Truth in Taxation notices hit mailboxes forecasting double-digit percentage hikes, at least 20 calls and e-mails came in to district headquarters from surprised homeowners, board Chairman Reggie Bowerman said. Officials are doing their best, he said, to help people understand why individual increases may be higher than they anticipated — “pull them off the ledge a little bit,” he said.
Whether they’ve succeeded should be clearer Monday when the Shakopee school board holds its Truth in Taxation hearing.
The projected tax bills sent to the state’s property owners last month are calculated on levies proposed by local governments this fall — figures that can be trimmed when final votes are taken this month. They do not include the cost of school levies passed by voters in November.
That means while voters in Shakopee, Edina and New Prague — which had successful spring bond campaigns — know now where next year’s taxes are heading, voters in Woodbury, Chaska, Fridley and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan — who backed spending requests in November — won’t know until bills arrive next year.
In Woodbury, typical homeowners in the South Washington County School District had been eyeing a $182 property tax increase. Now, they could be in for a big change. The state Department of Revenue said that the district’s levy could rise by 27.6 percent from a year ago when factoring in the passage of two November ballot questions.
Multiple factors play into a property tax bill, and a year ago, resurgent housing values were a major driver in the increases being projected for 2015.
The residential rebound has continued in Minneapolis, where the median-valued home increased in value this year by 5.5 percent.
Taxes on that home are expected to rise by $13, or 0.4 percent, in 2016.
In some neighborhoods, however, values show more robust growth, leaving those homeowners more vulnerable to steeper hikes.
In St. Paul, for example, the city’s median-valued home increased in value by 4.5 percent, and is expected to see a 4.7 percent tax increase. But downtown and on the North End, median-valued homes rose in value by 12 percent and 15.2 percent, respectively, helping fuel projected tax increases of 15 percent and 22.3 percent.
De Rosier lives in a condo in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. This year, her condo jumped in value by nearly 60 percent — helping to trigger a 75.6 percent tax increase. She doesn’t mind the value increase, she said. She plans to sell, and wants to get a fair price.
But the Central High graduate has issues with school spending.
“The average citizen, and that’s all of us, we just keep paying and paying and paying, and it needs to slow down,” she said.
Districts rely heavily on state Department of Education calculations when setting levies, and in St. Paul’s case, the district has cited a reduction in state aid due to the city’s growing tax base as a reason for its proposed 3.5 percent increase. There is wiggle room, but no move yet to lower the figure as the school board nears final action Tuesday.
Shakopee, too, lost some aid via a state formula tied to enrollment, officials say. That has been part of the conversation — along with market value changes and other factors — with residents who’ve been upset about their tax notices. Bowerman, looking ahead to Monday’s hearing, said the calls have slowed — suggesting at least some people are satisfied with the explanations.
Or, he said, they could be “keeping their powder dry — that’s always possible, too.”