Overall city tax levy up 3.32%

Published 9:58 pm Monday, December 9, 2019

General fund levy sees no increase


The Albert Lea City Council unanimously approved a 3.32% total tax levy increase Monday, which is down from the preliminary 5.56% increase approved in September.

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The general fund levy will see no change and will remain at $4.76 million; however, there will be an about $209,000 increase in the debt levy, bringing that levy to $1.76 million, according to information provided by Finance Director Kristi Brutlag. The city has not had a general fund levy increase since 2013. The debt levy covers payments the city makes when it bonds for projects.

Brutlag said a $100,000 property that did not see a change in value this year will actually see a reduction in city taxes from about $619 in 2019 to $596 in 2020 because of a 7.23% increase in the net tax capacity for the city for 2020. A $100,000 property that saw an increase in its value by $7,230 would see an increase in city taxes by about $20.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland and Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. commended staff for their work going through the budget and reducing from the preliminary 5% increase in the general fund levy. Howland described the zero percent general fund levy increase as “actually pretty amazing.” 

Brutlag showed a graph comparing the preliminary proposed levies and 2019 levies in other nearby communities, ranging from as low as a preliminary 1.6% increase in North Mankato to as high as a preliminary 9.5% increase in Waseca.

The graph showed Austin had a 15.7% levy increase in 2019 and had passed a preliminary 4% levy increase for 2020.

She said the levy makes up about 28% of the city’s general fund budget, and 33% comes from local government aid. The 2020 final budget was approved at about $16.76 million, an about 1.61% increase from 2019.

Regarding expenditures, 40% of the city’s general fund expenses go toward public safety, followed by culture and recreation at 22% and public works at 17%.

Resident Gary Hagen was the only resident to speak during the city’s truth in taxation portion of the meeting. Hagen suggested the council consider both tax base and spending each time a project comes before them that could lead to an increase in taxes.

He asked the council to consider whether the city can afford the project or if it should reserve its funds for more serious projects in the future.

The council approved a $109,000 levy for the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which is the same as was approved in 2019. The levy covers money for a housing study, residential rehabilitation, standard property demolition, Section 8 fee offsets and public housing reserve.

Look to the Wednesday edition for more information from the Monday meeting.