Anoka County Board approves preliminary tax levy

Contributing Writer

The Anoka County Board Sept. 26 approved a preliminary 2018 certified tax levy totaling $130.08 million, which is 3.7 percent higher than this year’s certified levy of $125.44 million.

Once the fiscal disparities distribution is factored in – it will be about the same as 2017, said County Administrator Jerry Soma – the preliminary net levy for 2018 will be $108.5 million compared with $103.92 million this year, a 4.13 percent increase, according to Cory Kampf, county finance and central services division manager.

Besides the tax levy, the amount individual property owners pay in property taxes depends on taxable market values and for 2018 tax purposes, these have increased on average 10 percent across the county for residential properties, but only 0.3 percent for commercial and industrial properties resulting in a shift of the tax burden to residential taxpayers, Kampf said.

The preliminary certified and net levies cannot be increased when the county board takes final action in December, but they can be decreased. There will be a public meeting on the 2018 budget and levy at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7 at the Anoka County Government Center.

According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, public safety has long been a top priority for the County Board there will be seven new positions in the Sheriff’s Office and two in the central communications department.

In the sheriff’s department, one new administrator will be hired plus six detention deputies in the county jail with two new 911 dispatchers in central communications where two positions were also added this year to cope with increased workload, Soma said.

Another factor in the proposed levy increase is an 8.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums for 2018, Sivarajah said.

Providing benefits to county employees comes at a cost, but are necessary for the county to attract and keep a quality workforce, she said.

In addition, $300,000 is proposed to cover the cost of housing offenders in jails outside the county because the county jail is full, Soma said.

While the county will get $1.2 million in county program aid from the state in 2018, for which the board is grateful, it also faces more unfunded state mandates in human services programs, according to County Commissioner Scott Schulte.

The unfunded mandates include $500,000 next year for services to people with disabilities through the state MnChoice program plus meeting state child protection requirements for out-of-home placement and court costs, Soma said.

The County Board also approved a resolution adopting a preliminary $1.75 million public safety levy, which shows up as a line item on taxpayers’ property tax statements.

A $250,000 increase from this year, the levy is for countywide public safety improvements and equipment, Soma said.

For 2018, the levy will be used to cover costs of the integrated public safety data system for police and fire departments countywide and a state-mandated ongoing project to upgrade and replace 911 communications equipment on the county’s 10 radio towers, he said.