The Free Press, Mankato, MN


November 15, 2013

Hold feet to fire on property tax relief

Why it matters: The Legislature funded millions in property tax relief and now cities and counties must make sure they provide it.

A preliminary report on city and county property tax levies for 2014 should be troubling to taxpayers as average levies suggest an increase even after the state poured millions of dollars back to cities and counties for property tax relief.

The consolation at this point comes from the fact that the levies are preliminary and are set at the highest level they can be. In that sense, the average 2.1 percent increase for cities and the 1.5 percent increase for counties suggest that is the most tax levies will go up.

Typically, cities and counties reduce those amounts when they decide on the final levies in December. But taxpayers should hold local officials feet to the fire on this issue.

We suspect many area cities and counties will reduce their levy, and there very well could be an overall reduction in the average levies across the state. The Dayton administration is encouraging cities and counties to provide some property tax relief to homeowners and businesses. That’s because they more or less promised that would be the result of the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax relief measures they passed.

Revenue Department officials in July predicted a $121 million cut in statewide property taxes, which would have been the first decline in a decade, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans told the newspaper he was still optimistic there would be property tax reductions, though he seemed to suggest some cities and counties were “filling potholes” or otherwise making up for lost funding over the last few years.

Frans said school levies were also set to decline about $60 million as school benefited from increased state funding. But voters also recently approved a $120 million increase in levies.

Cities and counties have no doubt seen funding cuts and service cuts over the past 10 years, but many, including Mankato and other regional cities, have still figured out how to provide good services at a lower cost. Many have reduced their employment and found other savings.

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