Property tax rise in the cards for Austin; City can reduce, but can’t increase certified levy

Published 7:51 am Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Austin City Council unanimously voted to raise the tax levy by 11.2 percent during its regular meeting Monday evening.

An additional $601,000 will be raised with the increase.

A preliminary levy proposal put the increase at 9.9 percent.

The higher levy was approved during the Council’s work session on Sept. 5.

“The amount was chosen because of the items City Council has wanted to support for 2018,” said Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert.

The tax levy will raise the city’s total levy from $5.34 million collected in 2017 to $5.941 million collectable in 2018.

Dankert cited the city’s desire to hire a full-time maintenance position, to increase city salaries by three percent plus the benefit costs incurred, and an additional $260,000 in capital needs for projects like infrastructure as causes for the increase.

Austin’s levy increase is expected to add $30-$40 a year in property taxes on a $100,000 home and $100 per $100,000 in value on commercial property.

State law required the Council to certify a proposed property tax levy to the Mower County Auditor on or before Sept. 30. Once the levy has been submitted, the Council may reduce, but not increase, the levy.

Tax levy increases over the past two years have been 13 percent and nine percent respectively.

Austin’s levy increase is slightly higher than that of cities of similar size. For example, Northfield staff recommended a 2018 tax levy increase of eight percent while Owatonna staff recommended an increase of 9.84 percent. Albert Lea recently passed a levy increase of only two percent.

From a financial standpoint, Northfield and Owatonna will make more money off the increases than Austin, adding an additional $660,000 and $1.4 million respectively. Albert Lea stands to gain $124,501.

The Council also voted in favor of a budget proposed for taxes payable in 2018. The budget is broken down as follows:

• General fund budget – $16,420,726

• Recreation programs fund budget – $97,373

• Economic development fund budget – $101,000

• Library fund budget – $1,217,056

• Fire PERA budget – $61,000

• Tax increment debt service fund budget – $234,624

• Debt service fund budget – $89,147

• Capital improvements revolving fund budget – $2,770,000

• Sewer user fund budget – $5,848,628

• Waste transfer station fund budget – $84,424

• Port Authority fund budget – $56,036

• Storm sewer maintenance fund budget – $975,855

• Central garage fund budget – $2,319,619

• MIS replacement fund budget – $232,315

• Fire fleet replacement fund budget – $638,000

• Risk management fund budget – $2,670.061

All totaled, the budget accounts for $33,815,864 in expenses.

The budget and the tax levy will be discussed in a public Truth and Taxation hearing, which the Council voted to schedule for Dec. 5. State law required the Council to schedule the date for the hearing sometime between Nov. 25 and Dec. 28.