Balanced budget: Anoka continues to hold line on tax levy

For the sixth consecutive year, Anoka will not be raising its levy on residential taxpayers.

City staff and the Anoka City Council are hammering out the 2015 budget, which stays in line with previous commitments to holding steady on taxes.

The tax levy, and spending, are the two things within the city’s control, said City Manager Tim Cruikshank.

The $5.7 million 2015 tax levy is the same as last year and $100,000 less than the taxes collected in 2008.

“That shows just how financially responsible this council has been,” Cruikshank said.

However, the owner of an average home valued at just over $176,000 may see an increase in taxes paid because of a significant rebound in home values in the city.

While Anoka properties took a huge hit during the recession, for 2015 those same houses have gone up an average of 20 percent in assessed value, according to Cruikshank.

This means that while the city has not increased the levy, a homeowner who paid $612 in city taxes for 2014 on that average valued home, would pay $696 for 2015.

This is comparable to taxes paid in 2011.

In order to balance the $10.5 million general fund budget, Cruikshank said in 2015 the city will bridge the gap with fund balances, but in 2016 revenues from the Enterprise Park TIF district will start flowing into the general fund after the 25-year district decertifies.

For more than two decades the city has been using increased tax revenues generated by development in the industrial park to help fund other new development, a stipulation tied to TIF district funding.

Using those fund balances has been a common practice for the city, but not one it wants to continue.

“We want to tie operating expenses to general fund revenues,” Cruikshank said.

That influx of about $800,000 to the general fund may result in a break for local taxpayers, but not until 2016.

Cruikshank said the city is proposing to use $100,000 as a “tax dividend” where the amount of city taxes owed for that particular year would be reduced.

That won’t be finalized until this time next year.

This boost to the general fund could also be used to find a more permanent solution to increased street improvement projects.

The city has ramped up its efforts over the past few years by adding extra projects, often using money from the electric utility’s fund balance.

At an Aug. 25 work session the council will also discuss a potential 5 percent increase in street renewal assessments. Property owners currently pay 20 to 25 percent of contraction costs through assessments.

As part of the budgeting process, the city had been discussing the idea of moving the current senior center out to the Green Haven Golf Club and Event Center.

But Cruikshank said this has been put on hold as the council talks to seniors in the community to get more input.

Other budget highlights include a 2 percent increase in employee wages as well as a 50 percent decrease in health savings account contributions, which was part of the city’s plan as it transitioned employees to high-deductible health insurance plans. Cruikshank said the change has translated into $70,000 in annual savings for the city.

Also proposed in the 2015 budget is a parking fine increase to $15, the demolition of the parks building near Green Haven Golf Course to make way for new development and a possible electric cost increase.

There will also likely be an increase of 9.8 percent, or 80 cents per month, in the city’s water rate.

The city must approve a preliminary budget and level by mid-September. Those numbers will be finalized in December.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at
[email protected]

  • RegularJoe62

    Only a politician could collect more in taxes and fees and claim to “hold the line” on taxes at the same time.