Independence sets preliminary tax levy

The Independence City Council Tuesday, Sept. 11, approved a preliminary property tax levy for 2013 of $1,959,346 — an increase of $95,265 (.9 percent) over the actual 2012 property tax levy of $1,862,081.

The preliminary levy would provide the largest chunk of revenue to fund the preliminary 2013 general fund budget of $2,208,224, up by $97,239 (4.6 percent) from the actual 2012 general fund budget of $2,110,985.

Mayor Marvin Johnson noted that cities must certify their preliminary 2013 property tax levies to Hennepin County by Sept. 15 and their final levies by Dec. 28. When decision time comes in December, Independence must set the final levy at the same figure as the preliminary levy or lower. The state does not permit a city to set the final levy at a higher figure than the preliminary levy.

City Councilor Norm Wenck said he wanted the final 2013 levy to be even with the levy for 2012 or smaller.

Then Mayor Johnson said he wondered about the size of the 2013 property tax levy. Would it be large enough to give Independence “some wiggle room” to provide for emergency expenses?

Contacted after the meeting, City Administrator Toni Hirsch discussed Independence’s preliminary general fund budget increase of 4.6 percent.

She said the state legislature for several years has frozen property tax levy increases for cities with populations over 2,500. This year no levy limits are in place, so cities are playing catch-up to deal with expenses they had put on hold during previous years. Independence had been cutting spending for public works and road materials for dust control and seal coating.

As she worked on the 2013 budget, Hirsch surveyed eight cities to see what they are planning to do with their preliminary general fund budgets. “Not one of them is dropping its budget,” she said.

According to her survey, Orono, Loretto and Long Lake are keeping their preliminary budgets the same as their 2012 budgets. Hanover is raising its general fund budget by 1.07 percent and Delano is raising its budget by 8.67 percent. Delano told her that its final budget is likely to be lower than its preliminary budget. Percent increases in preliminary general fund budgets for the other cities are Greenfield, 3.5 percent; Maple Plain, 3.1 percent and Corcoran, 4.64 percent plus a 2 percent cost of living adjustment.

Hirsch commented that the state legislature might put levy limits on cities again in 2014.

In 2013 Independence’s biggest expenses will be for police, $843,724; general government, $452,377; fire protection, $321,616 and public works, $314,902.

Independence will hold its truth in taxation hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Independence City Hall. Anyone can come to get information about the proposed final general fund budget and property tax levy and make comments. Then next spring, property owners can protest their assessed valuations at the annual Board of Appeals meeting.