Hennepin County residents could see the county’s property tax levy rise by 4.75% next year.
County Administrator David Hough told the County Board on Thursday that figure was merely an estimate and could change before he presents his 2020 budget proposal on Sept. 17.
“This is very preliminary,” said Hough. “We still have significant work to do on the budget.”
However, if the figure holds it would mean a lower tax levy hike in 2020 than this year’s 5.25% increase.
A property tax levy increase of 4.75% would raise more than $30 million in revenue to help fund ongoing needs in child protection, personnel expenses, and expansion and improvements at county service centers. Property taxes paid for a third of this year’s $2.4 billion county budget.
The board will approve the maximum tax levy on Sept. 24 and finalize next year’s budget in December.
Hough has been working on budget submissions from departments since March, and there are still discussions on possible trims. The county is in good financial shape but has a $9 million budget gap this year, said David Lawless, the county’s chief financial officer.
Commissioners raised concerns Thursday that the cash balance for human services has been in the red the past two years. Departments under human services are receiving less in reimbursements and aid from state and federal funds, and are down 170 staff positions this year.
Even with fewer positions, Lawless said the departments have managed services exceptionally well and have a two- to five-year plan to mitigate the budget issues. Child protection services had a $122 million budget in 2018, up from $73.6 million in 2015.
If the preliminary levy hike of 4.75% were approved by the board, the owner of a $281,000 house — the median value for the county — would pay about $60 more next year in county property taxes.
Some of that revenue would be used to fill 33 service center positions. It was ridiculous, Hough said, that some people had to wait up to 90 minutes to get their driver’s licenses.