County board cuts 2014 tax levy by $2 million

The Anoka County Board this morning (Friday, Dec. 6) cut its net tax levy for 2014 by $2 million compared with this year.

That’s $1 million more than the preliminary levy that was approved by the board in September.

By unanimous vote, the board approved a net levy of $95,517,399; the 2013 net levy was $97,517,399.

The additional $1 million reduction in the levy won’t come from programs or staffing, nor result in county departments having to reduce their budgets further, according to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

Rather, the levy for the county building fund will be reduced by $1 million from the preliminary figure – $3.7 million to $2.7 million, said County Administrator Jerry Soma.

More money has been added to this fund in the past couple of years as the county board has moved away from bonding for infrastructure projects like county building upgrades to pay cash.

And there’s enough money in the county’s “rainy day” fund that can be applied to county building projects, if needed, without bonding, according to Soma.

Figures provided by Budget Director Patti Hetrick show that the $2 million cut in the levy will result in a reduction of the county’s share of property taxes for selected single-family and commercial/industrial properties.

This is predicated on a reduction of 1.6 percent in single-family home values from 2013 and a 2.9 percent drop in commercial/industrial values, according to Hetrick.

• On a homestead property valued at $105,000, there will be a $36.20 cut in the county’s tax burden.

• On a homestead property valued at $150,000, the cut in the county’s tax share will be $38.89.

• On a homestead property valued at $320,000, the county’s tax share will drop $49.03.

• On a commercial/industrial property valued at  $300,000, the county tax burden will be reduced $105.62.

• On a commercial/industrial property valued at $600,000, the county tax share will drop $215.38.

• On a commercial/industrial property valued at $1.2 million, the county tax share will decline $434.90.

Commissioner Scott Schulte made the motion to reduce the levy a further $1 million, saying he was proud to do so.

This is the result of the excellent job staff has done in identifying innovations to be more efficient and save money, as well as a 10 percent increase in productivity through technology integration, according to Schulte.

The “pay as you go model” has saved the county more than $700,000 in interest costs this year, Schulte said.

While the overall economy is improving “we aren’t out of the woods yet” and many families continue to struggle, he said.

By cutting the levy for the third year in a row, the county board is helping taxpayers to make ends meet, Schulte said.

“We work on behalf of the taxpayer and it’s our mission to dig in and deliver these kinds of savings, while doing the hard work to make sure our services don’t suffer,” Sivarajah said.

“We are continuing to right size county government and make the most of technology to be more effective and efficient.”

According to County Commissioner Matt Look, the county board and staff have been able to decrease the levy the past three years through greatly increased efficiencies.

“This is not smoke and mirrors or politics,” Look said. “We are finding savings and passing them on to taxpayers. This has been a team effort.”

Sivarajah was also proud of the board’s decision earlier this year to repeal the Minnesota wheelage tax on county residents, saving taxpayers another $1.4 million annually, she said.

The Minnesota Legislature increased the wheelage tax from $5 to $10, but did not give the county the option of keeping it at $5, Sivarajah said.

“We are committed to our citizens and our actions and efforts demonstrate our mission to be respectful, innovative and fiscally responsible,” she said.

The net levy, which is the total collected from county property owners, was arrived at after county program aid from the state ($16,283,272) was subtracted from the gross levy of $134,642,669 for a certified levy of $118,359,397 and fiscal disparities distribution of $22,841,998 was subtracted from the certified levy.

The county board resolution also includes a $1 million levy, which appears as a line item on the property tax statement, to finance a portion of the public safety data project; this first appeared on the 2013 tax statement.

At the same time it approved the 2014 tax levy, the board approved a 2014 gross operating budget of $281,561,754 and a net operating budget of $114,679,279.

Highlights of the 2014 budget outlined in a press release by Martha Weaver, county public information manager, include:

• Strengthening of the county’s adult mental health intake unit to significantly improve service delivery and increase focus on prevention.

• Additional resources to senior services to bolster outreach and referral to reflect the county’s aging population.

• Staff and financial resources have also been added to the vulnerable adult intake unit to investigate and address concerns about abuse.

• More evening hours are being added at select library branches along with new mobile kiosks.

• Hours at county license centers will be expanded further to better meet customer needs.

The county board action this morning came after a public meeting on the tax levy and budget yesterday evening (Thursday, Dec. 5), at which no one spoke.

More information about the budget is available online at www.anokacounty.us including detailed information about the county’s budget goals and process, and videos explaining both.

 

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

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