City releases proposed budget, calls for slight tax hike

Published 4:27 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

If a proposed budget goes into effect, many Austin residents will be looking at somewhere between a $10 and $20 hike in city taxes in 2011.

On Friday, the city released its preliminary budget proposal for next year, a plan that calls for relatively unchanged funding to city departments and no staff cuts, as well as a 6 percent increase to the city’s tax levy, which would net Austin an additional $234,000.

Overall, the city would take in $4.13 million in taxes under the proposal.

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Spread out, that means $10 to $20 more for homeowners living in median-value homes, which in Austin is roughly $102,000.

However, even if a 6 percent increase is passed, Austin would still figure to have relatively low taxes — currently, the city ranks 222 out of 224 Minnesota cities in net tax levy per capita, according to state figures.

While the city is looking to take in a little more via taxes, it is also potentially looking at more money from Local Government Aid, a state program that sends funds to many areas in outstate Minnesota. The 2011 proposal estimates that roughly $7.8 million will come Austin’s way, a nearly $700,000 increase over 2010.

However, with the state facing a $6 billion deficit, there is no guarantee that funds aren’t slashed, and city financial director Tom Dankert said in an e-mail  he wasn’t “real confident” the additional aid would come.

There are also a lot of steps left on the city’s end before any of this becomes reality. On Monday, the City Council will begin discussion of the proposed budget and tax levy, a process that is expected to take several weeks. By Sept. 7, the council is expected to approve a budget and tax levy, though the tax figure can still be tweaked downward until the end of the year.

Along the way, council would also like to schedule several meetings within the community to discuss the budget process, though no dates or locations have been established.