Anoka County Board cuts net tax levy for third straight year

The Anoka County Board plans to reduce its net property tax levy for the third straight year.

The board Tuesday approved a 2014 preliminary net levy of $96,517,399 and a preliminary budget of $278,047,330.

The preliminary levy is $1 million, or 1.03 percent, less than this year’s levy.

The final levy and budget for 2014 will be adopted by the county board Friday, Dec. 6 following a public hearing the evening of Thursday, Dec. 5.

Under state law, the final levy cannot be higher than the preliminary amount, but it can be less.

According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, the proposed 2014 net levy is comparable to what it was 10 years ago .

It will mean property tax reductions for most low and moderate value homes in the county and many commercial and industrial properties, Sivarajah said.

The county board’s ability to cut the levy is because of the “extremely innovative work” of county staff and “their numerous ideas to make county government more efficient and effective,” she said.

“We have honed in on being able to deliver core services in innovative ways,” Sivarajah said.

In addition, the county has been “right sizing” government by making the most use of new technology, she said.

“And that has allowed us to get the best value for every dollar spent and lower taxes,” Sivarajah said.

According to Cevin Petersen, market values on residential properties for 2014 tax purposes have dropped 2 percent, a much lower level than in recent years.

And for 2015 taxes, he expects the values on residential properties to increase, Petersen said.

For 2014 tax purposes, values on commercial and industrial properties in the county have fallen an average of 3.1 percent, he said.

Petersen presented figures to show the impact of the preliminary net levy on the county’s share of property taxes on both homestead residential and commercial/industrial properties.

• On a residential property with a 2 percent value drop to $105,000, the county’s tax share will be $333, a $34.76 drop.

• On a residential property with a 2 percent value drop to $150,000, the county’s tax share will be $547, a $36.10 drop.

On a residential property with a 2 percent value drop to $320,000, the county’s tax share will be $1,355, a $41.13 drop.

• On a commercial/industrial property with a 3.1 percent value decline to $300,000, the county’s tax will be $2,253, an $87.56 drop.

• On a commercial/industrial property with a 3.1 percent value decline to $600,000, the county’s tax will be $4,841, a  $175.80 drop.

• On a commercial/industrial property with a 3.1 percent value decline to $1.2 million, the county’s tax will be $10,015, a  $362.27 drop.

While the county’s preliminary net levy, which is the amount that is billed to taxpayers, is down, both the gross and certified levies are higher than 2013, but state program aid and the fiscal disparities distribution have had the effect of dropping the net levy below the 2013 figure by exactly $1 million.

The county will see an increase in state program aid from $12,643,272 to $16,283,272 (28.79 percent) as a result of action by the 2013 Minnesota Legislature, and the fiscal disparities distribution has jumped 9.42 percent from $20,875,492 to $22,841,998.

While the gross levy increased 3.52 percent from $131,036,164 to $135,642,669, it included a spike in the county building fund from $1.9 million this year to $4,256,505 in 2014.

That includes money for highway projects and reflects county board policy, put in place last year, to pay cash for building and infrastructure projects rather than bond for them, Petersen said.

The board’s focus on paying with cash and reducing debt is saving more than $700,000 in annual debt service payments, according to a press release by Martha Weaver, county public information manager.

The proposed 2014 capital improvement program, on which the county board will have a public hearing at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 24 before considering its adoption, totals close to $54 million, a major portion of which is the proposed construction of the $35 million interchange at Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey.

But that project is dependent on state and federal funding. The county board last month approved a resolution to seek $17 million in state funding for the interchange project through the bonding bill that the Legislature will consider in the 2014 session.

According to Sivarajah, the proposed levy and budget reflects the board’s commitment to be “respectful, innovative, responsible and smart.”

Peter Bodley is at
peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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