Dondi Hanson said he worries his neighbors will be taxed out of their homes.
“We need to be considering the impact this has on people who aren’t working because they have medical conditions and are barely getting by,” he told the Rochester City Council on Monday as it considered adopting the 2020 budget with a 6 percent property tax levy increase.
The Five Oaks Condominiums resident said he’s lived in Rochester approximately a year but has talked with neighbors who cite 12 percent annual property tax increases dating back five years.
“The property tax increase has been something of a topic in our building,” he said.
The proposed 2020 tax on Hanson’s condo is a 15.1 percent increase, according to Olmsted County property records. He said others in the building have reported 23 percent increases.
Council Member Nick Campion said the council doesn’t take setting the tax levy lightly.
As the council unanimously approved a $393.5 million budget, Campion said the decision came with “unparalleled insight” and months of open discussion, leading to a $79.5 million tax levy, which is the total of the property taxes the city will collect next year.
“It doesn’t happen in a backroom,” he said.
“The common theme of compassion and understanding is something the council has dealt with,” he added.
Council members also noted some aspects of the property tax increases are out of the city’s control, namely property assessments associated with downtown living spaces.
Hanson, for example, saw the taxable market value of his condo increased by nearly 20 percent in the past year.
Council Member Michael Wojcik said the lack of downtown housing drives up residential property values. The answer, he said, is finding ways to increase housing options without creating costly sprawl.
“When people have more places to live, your costs aren’t going to escalate as fast as they are,” he said.
With Hanson and four other residents voicing concerns during Monday’s budget and tax hearing, the council noted concerns appeared to be down in previous years.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had as few speakers as we’ve had tonight,” Council Member Mark Bilderback said, noting he’s been on the council for 11 years.
Last year, the city hearing drew 12 people, and 15 spoke in 2017.
The first speaker during Monday’s hearing, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathleen Harrington, pointed to one potential reason for diminished comments, noting the budgeting process provided more opportunity for review of the planned spending before the tax hearing.
She said she applauded the effort and encouraged continued improvement.
“This is not to say we agree with everything in the budget,” she said.