Our Opinion: A wise solution

Published 10:17 am Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Austin City Council almost stuck to its original plan for next year’s budget and property taxes this week. Council members voted Tuesday night to set its annual property tax levy at about 1 percent lower than this year’s city taxes, though they increased taxes by $12,000 to hire a police officer at the start of next year, instead of March 2014. Though the council could have raised taxes this year despite state mandates, they chose not to, and for that we salute them.

We can still remember the incredible tax hike of 2012 due to the loss of the Homestead Market Value Tax Credit, when citizens saw their overall tax bill increase by as much as 10 percent in some instances. Last year, almost every homeowner had a decreasing tax bill after Mower County reappraised its commercial property. Increasing commercial and agricultural land values meant a smaller tax base for homeowners, which translated into lower taxes this year. Many city and county see the same thing happening in 2014, as well.

Given that, it would not have been surprising to see the city increase its portion of taxes. Cities across Minnesota must deal with slightly lower taxes next year due to state mandates and increasing Local Government Aid, but Austin officials found it could levy for additional debt services, meaning the city could have increased taxes despite legislative mandates.

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The council chose otherwise. Council members voted to keep taxes lower than this year, even though they decided to include more money to hire a police officer sooner. We are glad to see the council found a solution to a problem and still save taxpayers money.