Despite proposed levy increase, Stewartville aims to reduce taxpayers' burdens
The city's tax base has grown, too, so a higher tax levy might not translate to a higher tax bill for Stewartville homeowners.
STEWARTVILLE — During its Sept. 13 meeting, the Stewartville City Council approved a proposed tax levy increase of 15.31%. However, the city's tax base has increased 22.69%, so residents may not see a jump for their 2023 property taxes, depending on their home's market value.
"If your house goes up in value, maybe $20,000, your market value exclusion may go down by, say, $4,000," said Stewartville financial director Karla Strain.
As noted in the council's resolution on the preliminary levy, if a home's market value stayed the same, the homeowner would see a relative decrease in city tax to pay in 2023 versus 2022.
Strain said Stewartville's proposed levy increase comes in response to heightened or new expenses.
"We've got an increase for our law enforcement budget because of another officer coming on," Strain said, referring to the city's contract with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement coverage in the city. "And then just with the cost of some of the goods and services, fuel prices have gone up tremendously — all of those things that we're looking at, just trying to allocate appropriately for those as well."
Strain mentioned that the city's nearly 23% increase in its tax base doesn't mean the city budget is set to grow to that degree.
"We're actually looking at taking our tax capacity levy number down from year-to-year," she said.
A truth and taxation meeting to present and discuss Stewartville's levy increase with the public will be held in December.
As Minnesota cities prepare their preliminary levy reports, other area cities are planning for levy increases. In Pine Island, the city's 2023 budget is estimated to grow with a 4.89% increase in cost for contracted law enforcement service through the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office, cost of living increases for city staff and $150,000 allocated toward finishing the city's ice rink in 2023. This has prompted a suggested levy increase of 12.97%.
But Pine Island is also seeing an increased tax base — the city estimates taxes on residential and commercial properties will decrease as a result.
"Although our tax levy is increasing, because of our increased tax base, the levy is being spread out between a larger base so taxes as currently presented would decrease approximately $57.11 per $100,000 residential valuation," wrote Pine Island city administrator Elizabeth Howard in a letter to the city council for its Sept. 20 meeting. "However, please keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean taxes will decrease since valuations may have increased this past year."
Similarly, Wabasha has a proposed levy increase of 15.7% to account for increased city staff and police wages and an anticipated 2.1% Wabasha Port Authority levy increase. The city had used American Rescue Plan Funds to reduce the 2022 tax levy.
Minnesota cities must submit preliminary levies to their respective counties by Sept. 30, and the levy increase ultimately approved by the city council cannot exceed the proposed amount but can be reduced.