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County Board approves 8.5% levy increase


 
County Board approves 8.5% levy increase

The St. Louis County Board has approved a preliminary property tax levy of $126,550,079, an increase of 8.5 percent for 2017. The increased money is needed to fund skyrocketing out-of-home placement costs and other investments in children and family services. At the same time, the County's growing property tax base means most people will see little change in their property taxes compared to two years ago.

 

"We are as frustrated as anyone to see the levy increase like this," said Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chairs the Board's Finance Committee. "But we are seeing a level of need unlike anything experienced before, and it's simply not an option to ignore the increasing reports of children being abused and neglected. We have to protect children and help them."

 

St. Louis County's Children and Family Services Division has been responding to a 45-percent increase in reports of child maltreatment this year compared to 2014. At the same time, new reporting requirements from the state mean county staff must spend more time filling out paperwork, leaving less time to interact with and help families before they reach the point of children having to be removed. 

 

Add in the fact that the state legislature has failed to pass a tax bill the last two sessions, and Minnesota counties are being left with little funding support.

 

The County Board voted 6-1 to approved the levy, with Commissioner Chris Dahlberg opposed.

 

St. Louis County's property tax base has increased 8.0 percent in the last two years. That means, for a person who's property value has remained the same, the County portion of their property taxes will increase only slightly compared to two years ago. For instance, a home valued at $200,000 will see an increase of $1.09 for 2017 compared to 2015.

 

The levy – revenue collected from property taxes – makes up about one third of the St. Louis County budget. Each year, in establishing a preliminary levy, the Board must find balance

between its goals for the services it wishes to provide, and the tax impact on citizens based on the cost of providing those services.

 

Two meetings have been set to collect public input on the levy and budget. They will be on

December 1 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia, and on December 8 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. Citizens are also welcome to provide input at any County Board meeting, or by contacting commissioners directly. Contact

information can be found at stlouiscountymn.gov/countyboard.

 

By law, Minnesota counties must set their maximum preliminary levy that portion of the budget

collected through property taxes by the end of September. As the Board and staff work to

finalize the 2017 budget over the next few months, the levy amount may be reduced, but it

cannot increase. Commissioners are set to vote on the final capital and operating budget on

December 20.

 

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