Looking toward next year, the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners discussed the preliminary 2020 county property tax levy during its Tuesday meeting.
County Administrator Ryan Krosch brought forth county staff’s recommendation of a preliminary county property tax levy of $23.1 million — a 5.25% increase from last year. He explained that the Nicollet County Budget Committee met several times within the last few months to consider this budget, with the primary levy increases coming from wage increases and rising health care costs (the proposed 10 percent increase in health insurance constitutes 1 percent of the levy). Other costs came from adding three-and-a-half full-time equivalent positions next year (two-and-a-half in health and human services and one in the technology department).
After some discussion, the commission voted to accept the resolution to set the preliminary 2020 tax levy. That number can go down but not up when the county’s final budget is set in December.
According to Commission Chair Denny Kemp, who also sits on the budget committee, departments’ budget requests for 2020 were reasonably frugal, adding that not every request was granted.
“I believe that the requests had merit, made sense and were covering areas that addressed the shortfalls that we’ve already identified,” he said. “Some of the requests for personnel were to fill voids that we had in the system [where] we weren’t able to have the resources in place to do their specific jobs. From a personnel hiring standpoint, absolutely, I think we made recommendations based on that, and the rest of it was really housekeeping. I think we’ve done very well, and I commend our staff for being very frugal about what we’re doing. It’s the nature of the services we’re providing. We’re providing resources to people; we’re not making widgets. It’s kind of what we have to do.”
He said this was especially true when it came to the technological side of things.
“To make ourselves more efficient as a county, we’ve invested much more heavily in technology,” he said. “In doing that, we also need the support of the tech personnel to keep this a secure network, and that’s a big resource that we need to retain.”
Krosch said, overall, residential property taxes will make up 52 percent (roughly $12 million) of the overall county tax, with agricultural property contributing 33 percent ($7.6 million) and commercial/industrial property contributing 15 percent ($3.4 million).
Commissioner Jack Kolar asked what the “optimal” split between sectors would be, and Krosch said it’s ideal for each sector to contribute about a third of property taxes. He said this is more common in counties with regional centers, such as St. Peter. In other rural counties, agricultural property can make up 85-95 percent of taxes.
“[The equal thirds split] is ideal to help absorb shifts in taxes,” he said. “We have a pretty good diversified tax base here, all things considered.”
While the levy is set to increase slightly, Krosch added that there was “overall growth” in the county, especially in North Mankato, and he said that the estimated market value of residential property has grown about 2.6 percent. Commercial and industrial property has also seen a slight increase in market value.
Krosch said for a home valued at $150,000, with no change in market value, county property taxes will rise about $8 per year. If that same home saw a 5 percent increase in market value, its county property taxes would increase about $53 a year. Meanwhile, for a commercial/industrial property with a 6 percent increase in market value, property taxes would increase by $389 a year.
For agricultural land, Krosch said most of the market value is remaining flat. An agricultural homestead with a garage and 80 acres of tillable land with no market value change would see a $118 increase total per year (a mix of $98 for the house and garage and $20 for the tillable land).
There will be a public input meeting regarding the property tax levy in the Nicollet County Board Room of the Nicollet County Government Center at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5.