The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 29, 2013

Le Center taxes up across the board

City levy to increase 13.8 percent; school district, county levies have smaller hike

By Dan Linehan
The Mankato Free Press

---- — LE CENTER — Residents of Le Center are familiar with double-digit tax increases in the city portion of their property taxes, and next year is no different.

Taxpayers got a break this year with a 5.25 percent increase, but from 2009 to 2013 the city has raised its levy by 95 percent.

The city’s preliminary levy increase for next year is 13.8 percent, though that may be reduced somewhat before the final budget is released, City Administrator Chris Collins said.

The levy is being increased to finance a $141,000 hike in the part of the levy used for paying back debts. Those steep debts led Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the city’s debt below investment grade in 2012 and downgrade it again earlier this year.

“I’m hoping this is the last of the big, double-digit increases that we have to do,” Collins said. “And we should be caught up then.”

Though Le Center is affected by levy limits, it can raise its levy to pay back debts without regard to those limits.

Even if Le Center’s levy goes up the full amount, a home owner in Le Center with a $150,000 house can expect only about a 3 percent increase in their taxes. That’s due to the influences of the school district and the county, which have more modest levy increases.

Le Sueur County’s preliminary levy increase is 4 percent, or $588,805. It, too, has largely avoided any problems with levy limits, though for a slightly different reason. Its debt levy is declining, so it can devote the money it formerly spent on debt toward other purposes, in this case road work.

“Because of our long-term bonding … levy limits didn’t really restrict us too much,” County Administrator Darrell Pettis said.

All of the levy increase is being budgeted on county road improvements, including overlays to county roads 104, 116 and 154.

“If we wouldn’t have done the special roadwork we could have done a zero (increase),” Pettis said. “But there was a demand to do road work … they’re showing their age.”

The school district, Tri-City United Public Schools, is also raising its levy, by 4.74 percent, or $267,505. However, the school district’s portion of taxes will fall by $73 on a $150,000 home.

As with the city, the increase is devoted towards debt service.

Tax meetings for Le Center residents City of Le Center: 7 p.m., Dec. 10, City Hall, 10 West Tyrone Street Tri-City United Public Schools: 6 p.m., Dec. 9, Tri-City United High School, Montgomery, band room Le Sueur County: 6:35 p.m., Dec. 17, Le Sueur County Courthouse, 88 S. Park Ave., Le Center