Baxter City Council approves 7.45% final property tax levy for 2020
The final tax levy for 2020 falls in line with the combined levy for municipalities across the state of Minnesota.
BAXTER — Going into 2020, the Baxter City Council officially approved a 7.45% levy increase over 2019 during its Tuesday, Dec. 3, bimonthly meeting.
The overall levy looks to include a 10.8%, or $135 per year, property tax increase for the average $250,000 home.
The 2020 preliminary levy was set at $6,879,600, a $476,800 or 7.45% increase from 2019. The proposed final levy is recommended at the same $6,879,600. Last year’s levy increase was 6.65% and the average annualized increase over the nine-year period is 2.21% per year.
According to city documents, this falls almost perfectly in line with the combined levies across the state, which also increased at about 7.5% over 2019, barring any reductions before the end of the year.
Of that number, $5,803,600 accounts for the operating levy, while a further $1,076,000 accounts for the debt service levy portion of the 2020 budget. In total, the 2020 budget for the city of Baxter clocks in at $17,819,900.
The city of Baxter hosted a special hearing for the proposed final levy on Monday, but city officials noted only two residents attended and neither of them decided to voice an opinion on the matter. While Mayor Darrel Olson was absent Tuesday, council members Zach Tabatt, Mark Cross, Todd Holman and Connie Lyscio voted unanimously to approve the levy.
In the budgetary process, council members primarily haggled over how to properly fund city services in a way that’s fiscally sound and moderate, while also investing wisely in the future.
The Baxter Parks and Recreation Department was a particular item of focus, as city officials noted the department was overwhelmed in terms of workload and scope, but also presented a point of heightened expenditure with fears of economic downturn on the horizon.
In prior discussions, Olson said Sept. 17 the conversation represented a junction, finding a balance between the quality of services and amenities that Baxter residents have come to expect from the community, while ensuring costs are kept at reasonable levels.
“I think we have a dual obligation,” Olson said at the time. “It’s both — the quality of service we provide, and the cost.”
As such, council members haggled over over reductions to lessen the load on Baxter residents — whether that’s delaying infrastructure projects, postponing the replacement of equipment, or chipping away at more superficial day-to-day operations.
In September, Olson cautioned the mindset of pushing off seemingly non-necessary projects, while the overall well-being of the city declines and unaddressed issues come to the forefront in coming years.
“I think some people said ‘Turn over every rock, bring us back some numbers,’” Olson said Sept. 17. “I don’t know if we were of one accord coming out of that meeting. … My concern is that I think it guts it too far. Nobody has a crystal ball to see how this affects us down the road, if we’re going to become professional can-kickers.”
As such, the 7.45% was presented by city officials as a robust and proactive, if more cautious and frugal option to earlier tax levy proposals being floated that hovered over 8%.
GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch.