St. Louis County Board approves 2017 budget, levy
The St. Louis County Board has approved it's 2017 budget, totaling $387,159,183. The budget includes an 8.5 percent property tax levy increase, with much of the increase necessary to fund skyrocketing out-of-home placement costs and other investments in children and family services.
The day-long debate on the budget fought back several amendments proposed by Commissioner Tom Rukavina, including one that sought to reduce the unorganized township levy by $250,000, which in turn would have lowered the Public Works budget by the same amount.
The amendment was defeated by the same 5-2 vote.
During a presentation at the Board meeting, County Administrator Kevin Gray highlighted three significant cost drivers addressed in the budget. These include the increased Health and Human Service impacts and costs of record numbers of children in-out-of-home placements, and rising instances of people with mental health, substance abuse and addiction issues.
A second significant factor is the decrease in state support to fund the services the County is required to provide. The failure of the governor and legislature to agree on a tax bill cost St. Louis County an estimated $3 million in funding support. Additionally, increased reporting requirements for child protection services, and systems failures with MNsure have created tremendous additional burden on our staff.
The 2017 budget also reflects a nationwide theme – escalating healthcare costs for employees.
"The budget is reflective of continuous service to address real world needs," said Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chairs the Board's Finance Committee. "County government is where the rubber meets the road. There are services we must provide, and needs we can't ignore."
Growth in the County's property tax base, however, means the actual increase in the county portion of property tax bills will likely be much less than 8.5 percent. The 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.
The County Board approved the budget by a vote of 5-2, with commissioners Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and Tom Rukavina opposed.
The 2017 budget is available online at stlouiscountymn.gov/budget. St. Louis County serves more than 200,000 residents spread across 7,000 square miles. To learn more, visit stlouiscountymn.gov.