Crow Wing County’s preliminary ‘23 levy shows 2.89% increase

The levy amount can be reduced before the final certification of the levy in December. As part of its actions Tuesday, the County Board set the public hearing on the final levy for 6 p.m. Dec. 13 in the county boardroom at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.

Crow Wing County Historic Court House1.jpg
Crow Wing County Historic Court House April 15, 2020, in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The Crow Wing County Board approved the preliminary property tax levy for 2023, representing a 2.89% increase over last year’s collection.

Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 27, unanimously agreed to set the preliminary levy at $44,148,151, which accounts for approximately 43% of the county’s projected $101,663,042 in revenues for next year. By approving the resolution, commissioners agreed the 2.89% increase is the maximum amount by which the tax levy would rise next year.

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The levy amount can be reduced before the final certification of the levy in December. As part of its actions Tuesday, the County Board set the public hearing on the final levy for 6 p.m. Dec. 13 in the county boardroom at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.

How this levy would impact the average county property owner depends on a number of factors, including changes to one’s own property value and the number of additional taxpayers added to the rolls through new construction, which along with market value affects the overall tax rate. County officials estimated $212 million worth of new construction — the majority of which is residential — is likely to occur through 2022. The estimated market value in the county increased from $13 billion to $17.1 billion in 2021, more than 66% higher than the value in 2016.

How the county compares

Commissioner Paul Koering asked County Administrator Tim Houle how the county compares to other Minnesota counties in terms of its proposed levy increase.


“I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, but I guess just out of curiosity,” Koering said. “I know that this board, for as long as I’ve been on here, has been very, very conservative about this in comparison to the other 87 counties.”

Houle said he frequently communicates with his peers to discuss levies and budgets.

“We are the lowest I can find in the state of Minnesota so far,” Houle said. “There probably will be someone that’s lower. But I’m confident in telling you that with the 2.89% levy increase, that will be one of, if not the lowest, increase in the state.”

Crow Wing County Administrator Tim Houle
Crow Wing County Administrator Tim Houle

Koering noted other local governments approved more significant tax hikes in their preliminary levy resolutions — the Brainerd City Council set a 9.54% increase , while the Brainerd School Board agreed to an 8.4% increase . Both bodies indicated the levy amounts will decrease before final certification, although Houle described the increases as substantial.

“I’m concerned that they’re — are we trying to take advantage of the fact that the market values have increased? We know that those market values increased substantially and when I hear a city talking about their tax rate going down, I don’t find that to be an intellectually honest argument,” Houle said.

“ … When I see 10% increases and the market values are going up 20%, and people are talking about the tax rate going down as if that will produce a decrease in taxes — highly unlikely. And so whatever the percent levy a jurisdiction is proposing is likely fairly close to the percent increase a homeowner could expect to experience on their property taxes.”

Houle said new construction represents increased demand for services, such as road, sewer and water extensions and more snowplowing. Value increases to existing properties, however, is not the same, he said.

“I would argue that increases in the market value on the existing housing stock is not a demand for more services,” Houle said. “And so capturing that increase in market value for taxation purposes — I don’t understand that.”


Commissioner Steve Barrows complimented county staff for abiding by the board’s wishes to keep the levy increase below 3%.

“The senior management team has done an excellent job of negotiating with each other in times that have been tough, decisions that have been tough, and I think they need to know that they did what we asked,” Barrows said. “And they did it with all the hesitations that they might have had in their various departments. Even I had hesitations there for a second. But I think that they came together and they realized what we were asking of them, the pressures the constituents have out there right now with inflation and that going on.”

Where tax money goes

While property taxes are expected to account for 43% of total county revenues next year, intergovernmental revenue — such as state and federal allocations, grants and cost-sharing agreements — would account for 35%. Other taxes (9%), including the local option sales tax supporting highway projects, and charges for services (8%) make up the bulk of the remaining revenue.

Of the $44.1 million in taxes set to be collected in 2023, the bulk will support community services and public safety. Close to one-third of the taxes will be directed to community services — the county department tasked with adult services, child support, children and families, community corrections, public health, financial assistance, nutrition support and veteran services. Public safety services — accounting for the sheriff’s office and the county jail — will receive a nearly equal share at 31% of the total.

The remaining taxes collected will be split among the other county departments and spending areas — administrative services (13%), governance services (11%), land services (6%), highway services (5%) and capital projects (3%).

What property values mean for taxes

Earlier this year after valuation notices reflecting stark increases went out in the mail, calls from concerned property owners inundated county phone lines.


Crow Wing County experienced some of the highest hikes in value in the state — with seasonal/recreational and residential properties rising on average by 35% — but values rose everywhere, including 31% in Cass, 29% in Aitkin and 20% in Morrison. The increases are a direct reflection of the state of the housing market, which shows people are willing to pay higher prices for a tight inventory of housing stock.

Attendance at local boards of appeal and equalization meetings, which allow taxpayers to disagree with the classification or estimated market value for their properties, grew exponentially this summer. But, as county officials emphasized repeatedly, what residents pay in property taxes will almost certainly not increase at the same clip as values and is determined by different factors. The primary factor is how much money local governments collect as part of their property tax levies to cover spending.

A frequent metaphor is to envision the property tax levy as a pie. Each county taxpayer is responsible for a slice of the pie, and the size of that slice is determined by one’s property classification and value. New residences and other property development increase the number of taxpayers, further divvying up the tax load.

No matter what happens to values overall, however, the size of the pie itself does not change once the County Board sets the dollar amount of its final levy. The same pie metaphor applies to school districts, cities, townships and other special taxing districts, the levies for which combine to impact one’s overall tax bill.

Five main reasons exist for why a property owner might see a higher tax bill one year to the next, a land services news release explained. These include increases in government spending, a property’s market value decreasing less than other properties or increasing more than other properties, a change in property classification, or changes to state rules. This happened in 2011, for instance, when the state converted the homestead credit to a homestead exclusion.

Other actions

The board resolution setting the preliminary levy amount also resulted in other actions, including setting the preliminary tax levies for both of the county’s unorganized territories and for the Crow Wing County Housing and Residential Authority, or HRA. Also part of the resolution was the approval of benefit plans for all non-contract employees.

In the First Assessment District, the levy is preliminarily set for $1.18 million, or a 4.4% increase over the previous year. In the Second Assessment District, formerly Dean Lake Township, the levy will increase by 30.5% — $79,895 compared to $61,202 in 2022. This increase is due in part to a clerical error in 2020 that led to residents being taxed according to a $36,000 levy instead of a $62,000 levy.

“We’re in a good position now. We’re starting to build some fund balance back up to allow us to do some of those major road projects that come over three to five years,” said Nick Mielke, county finance director.

Man speaks into microphone in county boardroom
Eric Charpentier, executive director of the Crow Wing County and Brainerd housing and residential authorities, explains increases to the HRA levy request during a Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, County Board meeting.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

The preliminary HRA levy request for 2023 increased by $18,820 over the previous year, totaling $748,320. The majority of these dollars support the countywide housing trust fund, a permanent and continuously renewable source of funding to help meet the housing needs of moderate, low income and very low income households. The board agreed to establish this fund by ordinance in 2020 to provide loans and grants to individual property owners, homeowners, for-profit and nonprofit housing developers and governmental units.

Eric Charpentier, HRA executive director, said the increase is mostly due to an updated calculation of how much overhead is necessary for HRA staff to facilitate the authority’s programs.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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