County Board considers lower 2021 property tax impact

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — The St. Louis County Board has given initial approval for the 2021 maximum property tax levy in the amount of $147,721,854. While this is an increase of 1.48 percent compared to this year’s levy, the county’s property tax base has increased by five percent, which means most property owners will pay less on the county portion of their property tax bill.

An increased property tax base means the total levy amount is divided among more people. For example, on average, the owner of a home valued at $150,000 would see a decrease of just under $34; and the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay approximately $45 less in property taxes next year.

“Every year we are careful with how we balance the need for services with the cost of providing them,” said County Board Chair Mike Jugovich. “But this year more than ever, we know people in our county are hurting because of the economic impacts of the pandemic, and we are doing all we can to lessen the tax impact on them while continuing to provide the service level our citizens expect and deserve.”

The levy makes up about a third of the county’s overall budget. State and federal funding makes up a larger portion, and commissioners noted that those funding sources could decrease in the future, and the need to prepare for that is now. Among the strategies incorporated into the 2021 levy are: leaving many vacant positions unfilled, careful use of reserve funds, and maximizing other revenue sources and grant opportunities.

“We have not had a year like this in St. Louis County in my memory, and there have been some challenging years,” said Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chairs the board’s Finance Committee. “That said, I feel good about what we’re presenting today.”

The vote today was part of the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting, and was unanimous. The final vote will occur during the next County Board meeting on Sept. 22. Minnesota counties are required by law to set their maximum property tax levy—that portion of the budget collected through property taxes—by the end of September. As the board and staff work to finalize the 2021 budget over the next few months, the levy amount may be reduced, but it cannot increase. Commissioners will vote on the final capital and operating budget on Dec. 15.

Two meetings have been set to collect public input on the levy and budget. They will be on Monday, Nov. 23 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia and the following Monday, Nov. 30, at the Government Services Center in Duluth. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. Any details on how people may be able to participate remotely will be announced closer to the meeting dates. In the meantime, citizens may provide input at any County Board meeting or by contacting commissioners directly. Contact information can be found at www.stlouiscountymn. gov/countyboard.

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