Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Truth in Taxation Public Hearings

On Tuesday Dec 13, 2011 Oakdale Finance Director Suzanne Warren gave the annual Truth in Taxation presentation at the Oakdale City Council public hearing.  The entire presentation can be seen in the video.

Some key highlights from her presentation were:

Key Objectives
“For 2012 one of our most significant objectives was to try to minimize property tax adjustments for our residents.  This proved pretty challenging for 2012, because there were some very significant changes in the state law that impacted how property taxes are allocated.  So that proved to be really significant challenge for Oakdale.”
This challenge was addressed by reducing the levy by $99,114 from the 2011 levy, following on reductions in prior years.
"Unfortunately no matter what we do, no matter how we do levies, it impacts each property differently.  Some properties are going to see an increase, some are going to see a decrease, and some are going to stay about the same.  The system is really a reallocation of property taxes depending on changing values and changing state law, so its pretty difficult to target a reduction for everybody."
Another key objective was to hold down the cost of government.  This was the fourth year that Oakdale’s budget has been frozen.  City departments have been required to absorb inflationary increases from fuel, labor, etc in their budgets.

Oakdale was one of only three cities in Washington County that actually reduced their levy.  Others had increases by as much as $719,858.  Washington county also decreased their levy.
“For citizens of Oakdale, I hope they appreciate what the City Council is doing to keep those property taxes down for residents”
I would also add plaudits for the City Staff who have worked very hard, as evidenced not only by the results, but demonstrated at the budget open working sessions held with staff and the City Council.

Ms. Warren continued with remarks discussing the details of how the City of Oakdale receives about 32.7% of the property tax revenue (School Dist 622 takes 36.2% Washington Cty 26.7%, and 4.3% others), and where those tax dollars will go.  I encourage you to listen to the complete presentation, and the following council discussion.  It is about 14 minutes for the initial presentation, 22 minutes for the entire discussion, and is an excellent summary of where your city finances stand. 

Mayor Carmen Sarrack concluded the taxation portion of the City Council meeting describing that the Council really gets into the budgeting process beginning in July and August.  He encouraged citizens to come and participate early to get their input into the budget.  Tonight’s meeting, “truth in taxation” is really more of an informational meeting about the results of the budgeting process.

Ramsey County also recently held their Truth in Taxation session at Roseville High School.  Video of that session is available online at my youtube channel, with citizen comments.
There is a dramatic difference between the paths that Ramsey County has taken and that of the City of Oakdale and Washington County.  Ramsey County had significant increases.  Residents testimony (beginning around 49 minutes into the event) showed some taxes increased by as much as 53% this year alone.  Testimony of 20+% increases were common. One woman testified that her taxes (on a modestly valued home) have increased over 10% each year for the last three years.  Though she has been a life long resident of Ramsey County, she plans to move out of the area, as she can no longer afford the taxes for her home.  The attested pattern of persistent double digit increases in Ramsey County show that the changes this year from the legislature may have an impact on the allocation of property tax (higher valued homes receive less or no credit), but is not the cause of multi-year substantial increases.  The cause in Ramsey County is more likely poor budget planning, and profligate governmental spending.

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