Hennepin Budget Basics

Written by Jeff Johnson on August 10, 2009. Posted in General

Where does the money come from and where does it go?

The most common question I’m asked when wearing my county commissioner hat (which looks a bit like a Shriner’s fez, by the way) is pretty basic: “What does the county board do?”

The answer to that question could be very broad and detailed, but I generally sum it up in a sentence: “We spend a big chunk of your property tax dollars.”

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying. There is much more to my job as a commissioner than just spending money, but the budget aspect of the position is by far the most important part. I thought it worth a post to briefly describe the county budget and share where our budget dollars come from and where they go.

The county’s 2009 budget is approximately $1.7 billion (larger than that of several states). That amount does not include the budget of the Hennepin County Medical Center, as that entity was taken “off-line” a few years ago and governance moved from the county board to an independent body (which still includes two Hennepin County Commissioners). County taxpayers, however, still contribute considerably to HCMC’s budget. If HCMC were included in the equation, the 2009 budget is approaching $2.3 billion.

Although every property will be different, the largest portion of property tax for my home in Plymouth in 2009 went to Hennepin County. The county represented just over 1/3 of my property tax, while the City of Plymouth and the Wayzata School District each represented about 30%. Other small taxing entities represented the remaining portion.

The chart below shows where the county’s $1.7 billion budget is coming from in 2009:


As you can see, the largest portion of the county’s budget comes directly from the property tax, followed by payments from taxpayers for county-provided fees and services and then state and federal transfers (which, of course, are all taxpayer dollars, as well).

Where does the money go? The chart below shows the breakdown for 2009:


A VERY brief explanation of each of the pie pieces above:

Human Services – Assistance for the poor, disabled, elderly and mentally ill, as well as children and adults at risk of abuse, children who need financial support from a parent, and veterans

General Government – Basic operations of government, including HR, county assessor, county budget office, commissioners’ offices, IT, audit and property services

Public Safety – County corrections (adult and juvenile detention facilities), County Sheriff’s Office, County Attorney’s Office

Health – Northpoint Health Care facility in North Minneapolis, Metropolitan Health Plan (HMO serving county residents on subsidized health insurance programs), Medical Examiner, uncompensated care for HCMC

Capital Improvements (Bonding) – Highway/Bridge construction, building of county facilities (e.g. libraries and other government buildings)

Public Works – Housing and transit planning and development, environmental services

Libraries – Operating budget of 41 libraries in Hennepin County

In future posts I will provide information on the spending increase trends over the last decade as well as information on the county workforce.

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