County Tax Levies to Increase 1.5% Next Year
Board Passes 2013 Budgets with Levy Increases
The Board met for the final time this year to pass our budgets for Hennepin County, the county’s Regional Rail Authority and the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Each of these three entities has its own county-wide levy, which the county board sets each year at the same time as the budget. All three budgets passed this year on votes of 6 – 1 (with me voting “no”).
The general levy, which funds most county operations was just over $668 million for 2012 and will increase by about $6.2 million in 2013 (just under 1%). The rail levy was $18 million in 2012 and will increase by $3 million in 2013 (just under 17%). The housing levy was just over $5.6 million in 2012 and will increase by about $820,000 in 2013 (about 14.6%).
Overall, we increased the county tax levies by a total of 1.52% for 2013 (or about $10.5 million).
I did not support any of the three budgets or accompanying tax increases. As I pointed out to my colleagues (and have pointed out in previous blog posts) taxpayers in Hennepin County are still in a very tough place and are hurting financially. Unfortunately, our response as a board seems to always be: If our constituents are struggling, we need to spend more to help them.
There is a better response: If our constituents are struggling, let’s agree to not take even more of their hard-earned money and instead attempt to spend what we already have more wisely.
This is particularly true when one looks at our entire budget. County taxpayers fund many very important projects and services. I don’t tend to highlight them on this site because we do an excellent job of highlighting them through our public relations staff at the county. One can learn about many of these projects and services at www.hennepin.us.
We also, however, fund our fair share of projects and services that are either not necessary, not particularly effective or outright wasteful. One can learn about a select few of these projects and services in the right margin of this page under the Golden Fire Hydrant heading.
If I felt that we had cut spending to the bone in the county (as we sometimes like to tell people we have) and were truly in need of more revenue to effectively provide important services to our constituents, I’d be on board with levy increases. In my humble opinion, however, we are far, far away from that place.
One final note: This week’s meeting was the last for our County Administrator Richard Johnson. Richard has been a steady and wise voice during some tumultuous times in Hennepin County and will be missed. He was an excellent leader.