At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Wright County Board of Commissioners adopted its 2021 budget and certified levy (the portion of the budget that is paid in property taxes).
The budget for 2021 will be $153,827,273 – $8.2 million less than last year – but the primary reason for that is highway projects that were funded for 2020 that didn’t leave as much of a funding allocation for 2021. The Road & Bridge budget dropped by slightly under $9.6 million – more than enough to cover the underage from 2020.
The budget breakdown is done in five primary categories – General Fund, Road and Bridge, Human Services, Debt Service and Capital Projects. There is a line item for Lake Improvement Districts that is included as line items in both the budget and levy, but those funds are paid back directly from those living in the LIDs.
These are the 2021 dollar numbers for the components that made up the 2021 Wright County budget with the 2020 figures for those same areas in parentheses:
GENERAL FUND – 77,200,997 (74,462,446)
ROAD AND BRIDGE – 30,369,261 (39,960,223)
HUMAN SERVICES – 30,960,799 (30,334,292)
DEBT SERVICE – 12,045,354 (12,142,901)
CAPITAL PROJECTS – 3,118, 937 (5,014,998)
LID’S – 132,035 (129,525)
TOTAL – 153,827,373 (162,044,385)
As it pertains to the levy, the Wright County Board of Commissioners has taken on a modeling program to capture the new growth in Wright County. The 2021 levy is an increase of 5 percent over 2020, but the tax capacity growth was 6.99 percent, which, for many property owners led to a minimal property tax increase from the previous year.
“It has been the goal of this county board to avoid the type of problem we ran into in 2018,” Commissioner Darek Vetsch said. “Due to a number of factors that took place years earlier and a valuation decrease of the Monticello Nuclear Plant that we didn’t see coming until the state made the change, the levy jumped more than 17 percent. It was a hard pill swallow, but it got us to a point where we could start using budget modeling more effectively to try to match any increases in our future levies to try to equal that of the growth in the county. With growth comes more demand for service that the county has to address.”
The certified levy for 2021 is $82,381,407 – an increase of $4.1 million from 2020. The levy figure also includes reducing the amount by the amount of County Program Aid that comes from the State of Minnesota. These are the totals from the five components to come up with the levy share of the county budget – with 2020 figures listed in parentheses:
GENERAL FUND – 53,599,914 (49,135,148)
ROAD AND BRIDGE – 9,313,610 (9,358,916)
HUMAN SERVICES – 13,262,442 (11,864,351)
CAPITAL PROJECTS – 2,768,937 (4,314,998)
SUB-TOTAL – 78,944, 903 (74,673,413)
LESS COUNTY PROGRAM AID – 6,495,650 (6,250,127)
NET TAXABLE LEVY – 72,449,253 (68,423,286)
DEBT SERVICE – 9,932,154 (10,029,701)
CERTIFIED TAXABLE LEVY (without LIDs) – 82,381,407 (78,452,987)
Commissioner Mike Potter said one of the keys to keeping property taxes stable is establishing a tax rate that can be consistent and low, adding that increases in property taxes aren’t simply the result of the county raising taxes.
“If you look at most property tax statements, because of the new growth, if the value of your property didn’t increase in 2020, you’re going to be paying about the same taxes to the county that you paid the previous year,” Potter said. “People see their property tax statements and just assume it’s the county’s fault if their taxes go up. There are also city taxes and school district taxes that get factored in. Ever since we had to swallow hard in 2018 for the big tax increase, we’ve worked off models that try to capture new growth, keep our tax rate as flat as possible and avoid the kind of spike this county board got stuck with a couple years back.”
The anticipation is that, as the county finds ways to streamline its operation to create more efficiencies, the days of double-digit tax increases witnessed in 2018 will be a thing of the past and harnessing the continued growth of the county will help keep budgets and levies steady, consistent and increases low.