News Column

City proposes 4.98 percent tax levy hike in 2015

August 1, 2014

By Trey Mewes, Austin Daily Herald, Minn.

Aug. 01--The city of Austin is planning for a 4.98 percent city tax levy increase next year to add 1.5 full-time jobs, keep up with funding requirements and honor service requests.

City officials are looking to increase the city budget by $205,000 to help pay for a new full-time librarian and to move a part-time building inspector position up to full time.

"It's just what we need to give people what they want," said Mayor Tom Stiehm. "These are what people told us what they want, and that's our job, to give people what they want, not to force-feed people what they don't want."

The city of Austin has cut staff from about 180 positions in the 1980s to about 139 positions this year, about two positions annually over the past 25 or so years. Yet recent retirements and other vacancies have forced city staff to look at Austin's operations.

Librarian Gayle Heimer recently announced her retirement, which goes into effect in April 2015.

The Austin City Council preliminarily planned for a 5 percent tax levy increase in June as department heads submitted budget requests. The council will likely set the city's tax levy in September and confirm it in December.

It's too early to say how much a 5 percent increase would affect residents as the county's tax rate for 2015 won't be released until later this fall. In the past, the city has made up about 36 percent of a property owner's overall taxes.

In addition, there are several factors which could offset part of the tax levy increase.

Austin expects to get about $80,000 in increased Local Government Aid next year, according to state estimates. In addition, the city usually gets 2 to 3 percent more in taxes every year from new property owners.


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Source: Austin Daily Herald (MN)

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