St. Louis County’s part of tax bill could go down in 2010The portion of your 2010 property tax bill charged by St. Louis County could actually go down a bit under a levy cap approved Tuesday by county commissioners.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The portion of your 2010 property tax bill charged by St. Louis County could actually go down a bit under a levy cap approved Tuesday by county commissioners.
The County Board voted 5-1 in Duluth to set 1.3 percent as the maximum possible tax levy increase for next year. That levy will bring in $1.34 million more than last year from all county property owners.
But because several special taxing districts will expire in 2010, making more property taxable, each taxpayer’s bill should remain stable or go down.
County finance experts say that if no other changes occur, the owner of a $150,000 home would see the county’s share of taxes go down about $20 in 2010 from 2009. In addition to the county levy, property owners’ tax bills include levies by their cities or townships, school districts and special taxing authorities.
Dennis Fink, County Board chairman, said 1.3 percent is a compromise between commissioners who wanted to see zero levy increase and those who wanted to see a higher levy to cover unexpected budget shortfalls.
“We have to settle on something that makes sense,” said Fink, of Duluth.
The county budget and levy will remain preliminary until December, but the state requires local governments to set a cap in September so property
owners get an early sense of how their taxes will go next year. The levy could come down but can’t go up beyond 1.3 percent.
St. Louis County will see an overall budget of about $325 million in 2010. Two-thirds of that is pass-through money for programs state and federal governments require but the county runs.
The county’s 2010 budget from property taxes will be about $101 million, down about $5 million from 2009.
The county has been hit hard with about $3.5 million in cuts from state government in direct aid, $1.6 million in cuts in state funding for state programs the county oversees, a $703,000 decline in the county’s share of taconite tax revenues and $415,000 in reduced revenue from selling timber off county land.
Most of the cuts were made in a single move earlier this month when commissioners voted to lease the Chris Jensen nursing home in Duluth and lay off more than 200 county employees, though most of those are expected to sign back on with the new private operator of the home. The county also ended its assisted living program earlier this summer, eliminating more jobs.
Those recent moves follow a trend that has seen the number of county employees drop 25 percent since 2002, from about 2,300 to about 1,700 after the Chris Jensen move becomes official on Nov. 1.
The county will hold public hearings Dec. 3 in Virginia and Dec. 10 in Duluth on the 2010 budget and levy.