City, school district discuss tax leviesThe Farmington City Council has approved a preliminary tax levy for 2010, but there is still a long way to go before next year’s budget is finalized.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
The Farmington City Council has approved a preliminary tax levy for 2010, but there is still a long way to go before next year’s budget is finalized. Somehow, in the next two months, city council members want to find a way to trim $225,000 from the amount they approved last week.
At the Sept. 8 meeting, council members approved a preliminary tax levy of $9.767 million for 2010, an increase of 5 percent over the approved 2009 tax levy of $9.313 million. That amount includes a $350,000 “levy-back” to collect funds lost when the state of Minnesota canceled its Market Value Homestead Credit allocations in late 2008 and 2009 — something that is allowed as part of a levy limit law revision. It also includes about $2 million in debt service, and another $195,000 for the fire levy.
The preliminary levy also includes funding for Rambling River Center renovations and operations, 2010 elections, law enforcement contract salaries and benefits, a full-year school resource officer, a patrol officer to replace the promoted SRO and other staff contract rate increase obligations.
There are no other increases in expenses in that levy amount, according to finance director Robin Roland. In fact, things like repairs to the city’s swimming pool and ice arena have been put on the back burner in the past, and are again, in 2010.
It is a conservative levy, Roland said, and meant to keep the city running as effectively as possible on a tight budget. It comes out to a property tax levy of about 50.44 percent, which is an increase from 44.16 percent in 2009.
Across the county, market values are decreasing, which plays a role in how much each individual homeowner would pay toward that tax levy. Just two years ago, the market value on an average home was around $243,0000. In 2010, that number is estimated to drop about to $212,000. By coupling the market value decrease with a shift in the property tax burden — from a heavier reliance on commercial and industrial properties to residential properties — taxpayers with a median-value home can expect to pay about $1,071 in taxes under the preliminary scenario.
But council members are not done fine-tuning next year’s numbers. Council member Steve Wilson said he would like to trim another $225,000 from the levy before approving the final document in December. He suggested they look at another furlough in hours like they implemented in 2009, or possibly cutting staff members. Before approving the preliminary levy, council member Julie May and mayor Todd Larson agreed more could be done by way of cuts.
“I will support this as a worst-case scenario,” Larson said, “but by no means are we done with this.”
The city council will hold several work sessions to review the 2010 budget and levy before the final numbers are approved in December. City staff is working to get detailed information together to help council members make those difficult future decisions.
“We heard you loud and clear this is the top and you want it to be less and we will act on it,” Roland said.