Increasing levies at the city and county level as the Legislature for the first time provided relief would not likely garner much favor with taxpayers, and rightly so. The tax relief funding is not a reason to go on a spending spree at the city and county level. Local leaders will have to provide strong justification for any increase in spending. Needs must always come before wants.
The Legislature cut $129 million worth of sales taxes to cities and counties and increased aid by about $130 million. So far, preliminary levies would increase property taxes by $80 million for cities and counties.
Blue Earth County was apparently required by the Legislature to have a zero percent increase in its levy this year via a complex formula.
The city of Mankato has set a preliminary levy increase of 2.3 percent, though Councilman Mark Frost recommended a 0 percent increase that did not find support at a September Council meeting. North Mankato has proposed a zero levy increase this year. St. Peter has proposed a 3 percent preliminary levy increase. Nicollet County has proposed a 9.6 percent increase. All cities and counties can lower their levies before they become final in December.
After years of seeing reductions in state aid, cities and counties finally have received at least part of what they were asking for from a DFL Legislature and governor. It would be unwise to turn that upside down and poke holes in the argument that state policies can help reduce the tax burden at the local level.
Lower property taxes benefit businesses in a local community, many who have been struggling through several years of recession and reductions in business while costs increase. Farmers and taxpayers have also seen their property taxes go up in the last 10 years. All deserve relief.
Now is the time for cities and counties to make a statement that they are following through on promises for lower taxes with the help of state lawmakers.