Anoka property owners will see a decrease in their city taxes for 2013.
The Anoka City Council adopted the city’s preliminary budget and levy for next year, which will see the city collecting $43,000 less in taxes for a total levy of $5,856,105.
“This will be our fourth year in a row that we have either held the levy at a zero increase or decreased our levy,” said Finance Director Lori Yager.
Those decreases will come as $30,000 out of the city’s operating levy and $13,000 out of the debt levy.
The average homeowner, with a property valued at $151,000, will see a yearly decrease of $50 in their city property taxes for 2013, according to Yager, with their annual city taxes costing about $691.
“This is about what they paid in 2007,” said Yager.
Anoka’s city council and staff met weekly through the month of August to produce a budget that did not increase costs for property owners.
“It has been quite challenging but very rewarding,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver.
Given the economic conditions in both the country and the state, for Anoka to cut taxes is remarkable, he said.
Home values have also continued to fall in Anoka, at a reduction of 8 percent in value for 2013. Yager said the city is still catching up with real estate values of properties.
Yager explained the reasons why the city has been able to do well in tough financial times.
“Our electric facility has done very well over the last few years and we’ve been able to transfer money from the electric funds into our operating budget to help offset any increases in operating costs,” said Yager.
Surpluses in the city-owned utility have funded several projects throughout the city in the past few years.
Yager said the city will spend $10.7 million on operations for 2013 – an increase of 7.5 percent.
It will use reserves for some capital purchases in 2013, including the replacement of the HVAC system at city hall. There is also a long list of capital projects including the completion of Castle Field, work at King’s Island and the start of the parking ramp at the Northstar Station.
Yager said there will be no rate increases for water, sewer or electric utilities in 2013.
There will be storm sewer rate increase of 20 cents per month for residential properties. Commercial properties will also see a proportional increase.
According to Yager, the city’s Round Up for Change Program, which rounds up customer’s utility bills to the nearest dollar, will allow the city to reduce $20,000 in expenditures from the general fund. The program is voluntary but did cause some controversy when it was implemented.
That money will be used to fund both Youth First Community of Promise and Alexandra House.
“There was a time when we caught a little bit of flak for implementing the round up program,” said Councilmember Mark Freeburg. “It is has taken $20,000 off the line item of the police department which is paid for by the taxpayer.”
Anoka resident Russ Holmes questioned the city council on its intention to purchase any more property in 2013. He asked if there were plans to buy any banks or Carpenter’s Halls.
“You always say it’s been on the drawing board for years,” said Holmes.
Yager said the city does have $750,000 in tax increment financing funding for redevelopment. Those funds must be used in specific parts of the city for designated redevelopment projects.
“When we have opportunities like the Carpenter’s Hall and those are opportunities for us to do something good for our community with money that we have available that if we don’t spend we would have to give back,” said Mayor Phil Rice.
Earlier this year the city purchased the South Ferry Street property with its eye on long-term changes at this city gateway.
City Manager Tim Cruikshank said the current Volunteers of America senior housing project is a shining example of the city successfully purchasing property and then selling it for redevelopment.
“The point is fairly simple,” said Cruikshank. “Sometimes we do make acquisitions for development or redevelopment for the long-term good of the community and that’s just one example.”
Rice also said there are times when the city buys property knowing it won’t recoup all the costs.
“It protects and improves the quality of the city and sometimes no one else would do it,” he said.
Holmes was also critical of the complexity of the city’s budget and told the council to give it some thought between now and when it is finalized in December.
“I don’t think some of you guys understand this budget either,” Holmes told the council. “It’s confusing.”
Mandy Moran Froemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org