St. Paul homeowners can expect an easier go of it next year when it comes to paying property taxes, according to projections released last week.
The owner of a median-valued $215,800 home would see his or her tax bill rise 1.2%, from $3,030 to $3,066, in 2021 if the city, Ramsey County and St. Paul Public Schools sign off on their respective tax-levy proposals later this year.
You need to go back seven years to find a friendlier outlook. But that does not mean taxpayers couldn’t have gotten a better break.
Chris Samuel, the county’s auditor/treasurer, told City Council members in August that if the city, county and school district held their proposed levy increases to zero, total taxes for that $215,800 median-valued home would drop by $32, a 1.1% decrease. That was with an 8% increase in the home’s estimated market value.
Ramsey County, citing financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death, reversed a previous position that favored a 4.5% tax hike by saying it would not increase its levy.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and City Council members also said they would stick with no more than a 0% increase in the city levy.
That left the St. Paul school board, which signaled last week it would raise the district’s levy by up to 5%.
School systems rely heavily on state Department of Education calculations to determine how much to raise in taxes, which help fund operations during the following school year — in this case, 2021-22.
Marie Schrul, the district’s chief financial officer, told the school board recently that $5.3 million of the potential $9.3 million levy increase would go to pension and other retiree/contractual obligations.
If the district chose not to levy to pay those expenses, she said, it would have to cover the costs through its general fund, possibly requiring a redirection of money from schools or programs.
Board Member John Brodrick spoke of ensuring that facilities improvements and district operations are funded in the future. He plans to leave office when his term ends in December 2021.
“It all comes down to money,” he said. “Are we going to be able to sustain ourselves?”
St. Paul property owners are in the rare position of learning early in the tax season about their potential tax bills because of the unique nature of a city-county-schools panel created by state law in the early 1990s.
Samuel’s projections take into account property value changes, outside forces such as the contribution of funds from a regional pool of commercial and industrial tax money and the maximum levies proposed by the three jurisdictions.
Homeowners whose market values rise more sharply than others also are vulnerable to bigger increases.
Taxes for median-valued homes in nine of the city’s 17 planning districts are set to fall even if the school board approves a 5% levy increase in December. Owners in St. Anthony Park and downtown would receive the biggest potential savings, both with 5.8% reductions, and Macalester-Groveland’s median-valued home is in line for a 5.7% decrease.
Neighborhoods with the highest projected increases are the Greater East Side at 4.8%; Payne-Phalen, 4.1%; Sunray-Battle Creek-Highwood, 3.7%; and the West Side, 2.7%.