MANKATO — An early look at Blue Earth County’s budget shows a levy increase of 3.99 percent, though half of that rise is due to Mankato shifting its $574,000 library levy to the county.
Assuming the city reduces its library spending by the same amount, taxpayers would only see a levy increase of 1.96 percent.
“Our true increase to residents of the county is less than 2 percent,” County Administrator Bob Meyer told the County Board Tuesday.
Likewise, the city of Mankato’s preliminary levy increase of about 2.6 percent would be perhaps double that amount if it included the library levy. It’s too early, though, to assume the city won’t spend any money on the library. There is, for now, a $250,000 line item for library grants, and the City Council is planning on discussing the budget during its Sept. 4 meeting.
Despite the levy increase, many or most houses in Blue Earth County will not see an increase in the county share of their taxes. That’s thanks to stable residential property values as well as a 20 percent increase in the price of agricultural land, which drove the county’s tax capacity up 4 percent. With the 3.99 percent levy increase, the county levy comes to $29.4 million, which is about 44 percent of its tax capacity.
That percentage, called the “tax rate,” is down from about 45 percent in 2012.
Farm land, though, will likely see steep tax increases even though the tax rate is declining. County taxes on a $450,000 homesteaded ag parcel with a 20 percent value increase, for example, would rise by about 17 percent.
At the Tuesday meeting, commissioners said they’d like to get the word out that the “real” increase in the levy is 2 percent, and the extra 2 percent is a cost shift beyond their control.
Again, while the board originally hoped taxpayers would see zero net change — because the county will simply levy the library fund within the city limits — that won’t be the case if the city adds library grants.
While Meyer said he feels comfortable the county’s budget is nearing a final figure, there’s still some uncertainty about whether the state will deliver its promised aid.
“It assumes no state reductions,” he said, “which is not a great assumption at this point.”
The budget still has a $14,000 deficit, which will have to be closed before it’s finished in December.