City tax levy to go up 4.5 percent

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Albert Lea residents can expect higher city taxes in 2013 after the Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved an increase in the property tax levy.

City Manager Chad Adams said the 4.52 percent tax levy increase equates to an about $18 to $20 annual property tax increase for a $100,000 home.

The increase covers maintaining a full-time, 15-person crew in the city’s Fire Department along with additional funds to improve roads.

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The overall levy is $5.46 million and is made up of the general fund levy at $4.76 million and the debt service levy at about $700,000.

Chad Adams

The levy was the same as the preliminary levy the council approved in September.

In a separate vote, the council approved a general fund budget of just shy of $14.5 million, which is an about $212,000 increase from the proposed budget in September.

Of the increase, $23,000 will be offset by a change in recording tax abatements. The remaining increase of about $189,000 will be covered by a surplus in 2011.

City Manager Chad Adams said $100,000 of the increase will go to the city’s building maintenance fund, and $55,000 will go toward the acquisition of a compactor and other staffing adjustments.

Additional money likewise is being put toward the downtown matching grant program that encourages redevelopment of the front facades of buildings on Broadway Avenue.

Adams said of the 2013 general fund budget, 41 percent of the budget goes to support public safety, 19 percent goes toward public works and 22 percent goes toward culture and recreation. The remainder goes toward general government, community planning and other miscellaneous categories.

The city will have the equivalent of about 50 percent of its general fund budget in reserves.

The council approved the budget and tax levy after a presentation by Albert Lea resident Don Blake.

Blake presented the council with a packet of information showing how Albert Lea compared to similarly-sized communities across the state.

He said he developed the packet after a group of residents met with a few city officials to talk about their concerns over an increase in property taxes and noted that Albert Lea was one of the communities with the highest property taxes of those he compared.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen thanked Blake for his input but noted that it is often difficult to compare cities without knowing what services each provides.

The mayor said one of his biggest goals in the next two years is to concentrate on how to improve the city’s tax base.

“That’s the only thing we can do as a community to improve our situation,” he said.

Third Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr talked about the importance of restoring the market value homestead credit, which she said affected people’s taxes in 2012, even after the city did not improve its tax levy.


HRA levy

The council also approved a separate $50,000 special levy to go toward the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

This was less than 40 percent of the maximum $140,000 levy that could have been proposed.

Adams said this equates to an about $3 annual property tax increase for a $100,000 home.

HRA Executive Director Jon Ford said the money will go toward updating the housing study, leveraging funds for owner-occupied rehabilitation programs, demolishing city-acquired substandard property and administrative costs for some of the programs.

Ford said in the last four years, the HRA has helped rehab 50 owner-occupied homes.

“I think one of the signs of a health community is taking care and protecting the things you already have,” Kehr said.