The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 29, 2013

Le Sueur home taxes go down slightly

4 percent increase offset by values

By Dan Linehan dlinehan@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — LE SUEUR — Property taxpayers in Le Sueur whose homes didn’t rise in value should see a slight property tax decrease next year.

Though the city and Le Sueur County are planning on raising taxes by at least 4 percent, a rising tax base and a decrease in school taxes will result in relatively stable taxes for home owners.

The largest share of the property tax trifecta, the city of Le Sueur in this case, set a preliminary levy in September that included an increase of 7.5 percent, or $128,565. But the City Council has since cut $31,745 from the budget, reducing that increase to 5.6 percent, City Administrator Richard Almich said.

There's another reason the city tax increase will be smaller than it looks.

"Now, it should be noted — and I don't know if this is the case for a lot of other cities out there — but we are starting to experience growth in net tax capacity," Almich said. It's only a modest increase, 1.58 percent in a year, but it lowers the city tax rate, decreasing the proportion of the levy that each taxpayer has to pay.

Like most cities, Le Sueur received a bump in local government aid, but chose to budget the extra $146,529 to bolster reserves. The city made that choice because reserves had fallen to less than 20 percent of the general fund, whereas they should be in the 35 percent to 50 percent range.

The city also decided to raise taxes in order to spend about $150,000 a year over the next five years to improve the city's network of sidewalks. They put an additional $20,000 into the street seal-coating budget, too.

Without that state aid, it would have been impossible to improve those sidewalks while shoring up their reserves.

"We're very grateful for what the state of Minnesota did for us," Almich said.

The levy story is somewhat similar at Le Sueur County, which is also choosing a modest tax increase to fund infrastructure improvements. The county's levy is slated to go up 4 percent, or $588,805, which will fund overlays on three county roads (104, 116 and 154).

"If we wouldn't have done the special roadwork, we could have done a zero (increase)," County Administrator Darrell Pettis said.

Other inflationary expenses were relatively low. Health insurance at the county is rising by only 1 percent, and salaries are rising by about 3 percent.

The county also added a wheelage tax of $10 per vehicle, though it's separate from property taxes.

The third leg of the property tax stool, the school district, will see the biggest decrease even though the school levy will be increasing by $54,221, or 1.94 percent, Business Manager Pat Goggin said. Multiple factors create the inverse relationship.

Part of the levy increase will be spent on $81,000 worth of health and safety upgrades, including new security lighting.

Le Sueurbudget hearings City of Le Sueur: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9, City Hall, 203 S. 2nd Street Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools: 6 p.m. Dec. 2, Le Sueur High School Media Center, 901 Ferry St. Le Sueur County: 6:35 p.m. Dec. 17, Le Sueur County Courthouse, 88 S. Park Ave., Le Center