2015 tax levy, budget approved in Lake Elmo

City’s levy down slightly, county’s goes up

The Lake Elmo City Council approved the city’s final 2015 budget and property-tax levy at its Tuesday, Dec. 2, meeting.

Next year’s general fund operating budget of $3,798,334 was set along with a total levy of $3,137,663.

The resolution to adopt the proposed budget and levy passed unanimously. No one spoke during the public hearing prior to the vote.

Mayor Mike Pearson thanked the council members, city staff and planning commission for their efforts, acknowledging the hard work involved with creating a conservative budget.

According to a city news release, the 2015 budget and levy “includes an emphasis on street improvement and infrastructure challenges, and has also been revised to improve organizational efficiency and leverage staff capabilities through performance measurements.”

Next year’s nearly $3.8 million operating budget is about 12 percent higher than 2014.

The total tax levy includes a general fund levy of $2,421,588, a debt service levy of $484,814 and a library levy of $231,261.

City administrator Dean Zuleger said next year’s levy represents about a $25,000 decrease over 2014’s levy.

He said the slight levy reduction is due, in part, to a decrease in the library levy, which was dropped to reflect what it actually costs to run the library. Another reason taxpayers will not be paying more in the city’s portion of property taxes, Zuleger said, is because the city has not added any new staff. Additionally, Lake Elmo has adopted a growth-pays-for growth philosophy that will utilize user and development fees to pay for new development and operational expenses.

“This is the first year we did a performance-based budget,” he said. “We are funding a lot of community development through fees from growth.” 

Home values rebounding in Washington County

While the city’s tax levy decreased slightly, the median home value in Lake Elmo rose 11.9 percent over 2014, to $352,200.

For comparison, the county’s median-value home is $232,600 going into 2015, according to statement issued by Washington County. That value is 13.5 percent higher than the same home last year. Higher home values coupled with an increase in expenditures will have many homeowners paying more in the county’s portion of property taxes next year.

The county’s $90.7 million levy for 2015 represents a 3.45 percent increase over 2014. The levy will have a typical homeowner paying approximately $43 more in the county’s portion of property taxes next year. That figure is based on the median home value of $232,600.

Washington County will see an increase in operating expenditures due to the hiring of seven new employees, bringing staff numbers back to pre-recession levels.

County employees will also see pay increases for the first time in four years.

According to the county, other expenses contributing to the increase in operating expenditures include technology upgrades and efficiencies to modernize business practices.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.


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