Maplewood sets preliminary tax levy with 3 percent increase

On Sept. 10, the Maplewood City Council passed a $22.1 million preliminary 2019 property tax levy, which represents a 3 percent increase over the 2018 final tax levy.

If the preliminary levy is not reduced before being finalized at the Dec. 10 Truth in Taxation hearing, the result will be an estimated 3.7 percent increase on the city portion of property taxes for median-valued homes in Maplewood, explained City Manager Melinda Coleman at the meeting.

According to a presentation by Finance Director Ellen Paulseth, households with a median Maplewood property value of about $210,000 in 2018 are expected to see an increase in city property taxes of about $33 for 2019. 

Paulseth attributed the increase largely to a 6.2 percent increase in property value, making the median home values shift to about $223,000 for 2019.

The 3 percent levy increase will bring in an additional $644,000 for the city. Money from the levy goes mostly toward the city’s general fund and debt service payments.

Paulseth attributed the need for the 3 percent increase to an increase in workers compensation premiums, a need for IT equipment and services, the hiring of two new police officers, a shift in how park equipment is paid for and a need to build up the city’s reserve fund.

 

Council concerns 

Council member Marylee Abrams was the only one to vote against setting the preliminary tax levy with a 3 percent increase.

“My concern is that there are people out there that are expressing to me the difficulty that they envision happening,” Abrams said. 

She explained that although Maplewood is only one of several taxing authorities that affects residents, the taxes add up, and this year when residents are also worried about their personal taxes, she has heard concerns from residents that they may not be able to afford all the taxes expected of them.

Abrams said she preferred setting the preliminary levy with a 2.75 percent increase.

If that plan had been adopted, residents would still see a $30.50 increase over last year, but the reserve fund — essentially an emergency fund — would not have enough in it to meet the city’s target for that account, which is 41.67 percent — or five months — of annual expenditures, according to Paulseth’s presentation. 

“We can reduce the preliminary levy in December when we adopt the budget, but we can’t go up,” Coleman said. “One of my concerns about going under 3 percent is that then we are not putting in the same amount of money as we had hoped to put into our reserve funds.”

She noted that if the city starts doing that, it gets more and more difficult to catch up, and without enough money in the reserve funds, the city will not be able to react to unplanned and emergency situations.

Mayor Nora Slawik added, “I just hope residents understand that we think about this, that we’re having a thoughtful discussion and that we have to balance the needs of the residents with protecting you, with helping with the streets [and] with providing the services that you need.”

 

-Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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