The board voted 6-0 – County Commissioner Carol LeDoux was not at the meeting – to approve a resolution setting a gross tax levy of $131,036,164 for 2013, down 1.77 percent from this year, and a net tax levy of $97,517,399, a 1.03 percent reduction.
The county board’s action came after a public meeting on the levy and budget yesterday evening (Thursday, Dec. 6) at which no members of the public spoke.
The levy reduction for 2013 comes on the heels of a $8.15 million levy cut for 2012, which was the largest of any counties in the state.
According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, the levy and budget are a reflection of the county’s mission which is to serve citizens in a respectful, innovative and fiscally responsible manner.
“We’re just beginning to emerge from one of the most devastating economic periods in our country’s history,” Sivarajah said. “It’s our responsibility as leaders to not overburden our citizens just as they’re starting to get back on their feet.
“We will move forward with the excellent and diverse array of service as we always have, while staying focused on our priorities of sound management, a diverse tax base, low debt burden and healthy reserves,”
The county has positioned itself for the future with careful use of investments, low debt service – the county is not planning any new bonding for 2013 – and getting maximum value for the taxpayer’s dollar, Sivarajah said.
Sivarajah praised county staff for their innovation and willingness to come up with new ideas to make county government more efficient, she said.
And Sivarajah said she was proud that Standard and Poor’s had in the last week reaffirmed the county AAA bond rating, pointing to its strong financial condition.
According to Cevin Petersen, county division manager for finance and central services, the levy reduction came even though the county’s program aid from the state dropped $916,911 and the county’s share from the fiscal disparities pool dipped $426,153.
The cut in the levy will mean a reduction of the county’s share of residents’ 2013 property tax bills for most low and moderate value homes, Petersen said.
For example, a taxable market home valued at $157,300 for 2012 tax purposes with a 10.3 percent decrease in taxable market value – the average for the county – would reduce the home’s value to $141,800 for 2013 tax purposes, he said.
As a result, the county’s portion of the tax bill will drop from $559 to $520, or $39 per year following the homestead value exclusion, according to Petersen.
In a video presentation at the public meeting, Budget Director Patti Hetrick outlined where the dollars on the county tax on a $141,000 value home were spent. The most was $138 on public safety with $131 on human services the next. In addition, $53 went to highways and bridges and $39 to parks and libraries.
Two other examples of the impact of the approved tax levy on the county’s share of property taxes for homestead properties were given by Petersen.
For a home declining in value from $95,000 to $85,215, the county’s tax share would drop from $276.47 to $248.13 or 10.25 percent, while on a home dropping in value from $290,000 to $260,130, the county’s tax bite would decline from $1,162.65 to $1,098.29 or 5.54 percent.
For three commercial/industrial properties, the county’s share of taxes will also decline, according to figures provided by Petersen.
On a commercial/industrial property dropping value from $300,000 to $270,600, the county’s share will decline from $2,188.88 to $2,078.85; on a property whose value has dropped from $500,000 to $451,000, the county’s share will dip from $3,856.60 to $3,687.70; and on property valued at $1.2 million for 2012 and $1,082,400 for 2013, the county tax will decrease from $9,693.62 to $9,318.69.
The operating budget of $243,989,819 for 2013 is 11 percent less than the $273,435,329 approved for this year, but some $2 million higher than the preliminary budget approved in September.
According to Petersen, the $2 million was added to the budget after the county board approved that amount in performance-based pay for non-union staff at its last meeting in November, but it did not change the preliminary tax levy approved in September.
The county has been able to achieve its goal of reducing the levy by $1 million without “unduly straining our service to our citizens and customers,” County Administrator Jerry Soma said at the public hearing.
“We have increased the use of technology to streamline our work processes and eliminate paper,” he said.
“We have established a lean philosophy in the county to accomplish tasks in the most efficient manner.”
In addition, incentives have been provided to enable long-term employees to retire, which has led to cost-effective staff restructuring and some new hires, for the most part at lower pay, according to Soma.
“With the 2013 budget, the county board has achieved the delicate balance between delivering mandated services to our citizens and being good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us,” Soma said.
Peter Bodley is at