Bulletin-area property tax levies track with property values, and go up

Homeowners’ median property values in suburban Ramsey County are up across the board for the first time since 2006, the year before the onset of the Great Recession.

This means many homeowners in the county, including those in the Bulletin’s coverage area, are seeing a rise in their property taxes, which, in some cases, outpaces the smaller rises in city tax levies.

The jumps have come as a shock to some, who voiced their disapproval of the increases at various Truth In Taxation meetings that have taken place during the first weeks of December.

Some meetings featured comments on seemingly arbitrary property value increases—in the eyes of the speakers—that were calculated by the county; others had no resident speakers at all.

Per the Ramsey County assessor, property valuations for taxes payable in 2015 were sent out early this year and the deadline for an informal appeal of that valuation was in June.

Homeowners taking issue with their valuation can only find recourse now in tax court. The deadline to file is April 30, 2015.

Commercial property values in the Bulletin area have not recovered as quickly as home values and thus, homeowners are generally shouldering more of the tax burden than commercial owners.

As noted, Bulletin-area cities have been holding budget meetings to allow for public comment and also certifying their final property tax levies for 2015.

Cities that experience double digit percentage increases in median home values tended to propose larger increases in property tax levies, though not all approved such increases.

Arden Hills

After approving just more than a 5 percent levy increase on a 3-2 vote at the end of September, the Arden Hills City Council held a long and ranging debate about its final levy Dec. 8, which ended in compromise.

The city passed a 3.1 percent levy increase, with council members Dave McClung and Fran Holmes voting against the levy, though for different reasons.

McClung unsuccessfully proposed a 2.6 percent increase, while Holmes was opposed to the lower levy as it will require the city to tap into reserve funds to cover its unchanged budget.

The approved levy is $3,359,775, a $102,319 increase over the previous year’s levy.

Driving the increase in property taxes was a rise in public safety costs of 2.6 percent, a number to which McClung tied his proposal.

Council member Brenda Holden proposed the increase of 3.1 percent as a compromise that would rely less on reserve funds, while also funding road projects and cost of living increases for city employee pay.

As passed, the levy will rely on reserve funds in the amount of $58,305 to fully fund the budget. Reserve funds are typically transferred to the city’s capital improvement projects fund and used to pay for street projects and other investments.

Median home prices in Arden Hills bottomed out in 2012 at $257,400, five years after peaking at $316,100 in 2007.

With housing price gains matched by only one other Bulletin area city, St. Anthony, median home values in Arden Hills are up 11.5 percent for 2015, though still down by about $20,000 from the market peak.

The median home value in Arden Hills is $295,100.

Commercial market values are still down in the city since peaking and barely changing between 2009 and 2010. The median value of a commercial property in Arden Hills is worth about $510,000 less than it was a handful of years ago.

That median commercial property value decreased by 1.6 percent between 2014 and 2015, to $1,540,000.

Mounds View

Following a Truth In Taxation meeting held a week prior, the Mounds View City Council passed a levy identical to its proposed levy increase of 2 percent at its Dec. 8 meeting on a unanimous vote.

Public safety and elections costs drove the levy to a total of $4,350,310, which is $85,300 higher than the previous year.

A city document outlining its levy and budget explains, “Most residential property owners will see a modest tax increase as a result of shifts in value away from commercial/industrial/apartments towards residential properties.”

The median single family home property value in Mounds View is up 8.1 percent to $168,700. Median commercial property values are up a more modest 5.4 percent to $838,450.

The city’s housing market peaked in 2007 with median home values of $208,350, just about $39,000 more than their current median value.

Commercial property values peaked in 2009 and 2010, at a median value of about $288,000 more than now.

New Brighton

Asking for the smallest levy increase by percentage in the Bulletin area, the New Brighton City Council approved a 1.92 percent levy increase at its Dec. 9 meeting, with only council member Gina Bauman voting against the levy, as well as the city budget.

Bauman disagreed with the accounting practices and rationale behind the levy increase, arguing the city will have to make tougher decisions about the levy down the line as finances change, and should be proactive about it now.

The levy will increase $6,925,000, a $139,692 raise over the previous year.

Bauman, who was opposed to the levy when it was passed as a proposal in September, cast no dissenting votes when it came to approving special levies for the Lake Diane and Bicentennial Pond Storm Sewer Improvement Taxing Districts. 

The levies fund potential sewer projects for 2015. The Lake Diane levy is $3,750 and the Bicentennial Pond levy is $2,100.

Median single family home values in New Brighton are up 6.2 percent, bringing that value up to $209,200.

The market bottomed out between 2012 and 2013, when values hovered right at $197,000. The market peaked in 2007, when the median home value hit $243,800.

From that peak, a median single family home is worth about $34,000 less today.

Median commercial property values in New Brighton improved by 3.4 percent to $692,600 this year, though they’re still off from their 2009 peak by about $260,000.

Shoreview

Though set to vote on a final levy the evening of Dec. 15, after the Bulletin goes to press, Shoreview City Manager Terry Schwerm said he saw no reason to expect the city council would alter its proposed levy increase of 3.53 percent.

The levy will raise $10,362,918, an increase of $353,764 over the previous year.

Schwerm noted that increase is more than $150,000 less than what the city’s two-year budget plan called for. Increases in the costs of public safety and capital improvements and maintenance account for the increase in the levy.

Median single family home values in Shoreview are up by 10.2 percent to $247,500, still below their 2007 peak by about $39,000.

The market bottomed out in 2012 with a median value of $222,200.

The median commercial property value is $945,000 this year, down by 5.4 percent since last year. Overall, the value is $264,000 fewer than its 2008 peak.

St. Anthony

The St. Anthony City Council passed a levy of $5,831,737, at its Dec. 9 meeting, representing an increase of $218,000, 3.9 percent, over its previous levy.

Insurance and pension related costs at the city level are the driving force behind budget increases, leading to the increase in the levy.

Many of the large swings in market values seen elsewhere in the Bulletin’s coverage area, both in terms of housing and commercial property, were less drastic in St. Anthony.

Median single family home values are up by 11.5 percent to $247,400, bringing the values to within about $20,000 of their 2007 peak. That’s the closest any Bulletin-area city’s median home values have come to moving back towards their pre-recession peaks.

Likewise, St. Anthony commercial property has recovered to within about $62,000 of its 2007 peak, a Bulletin-area best, even though it was down .4 percent for 2015 to a median value of $900,700.

Additionally, before home values bottomed out in 2012, St. Anthony experienced a small rise in those values between 2010 and 2011.

The 1.21 percent increase—$3,000 more in value—was not just a rarity in the Bulletin area; no other city in Ramsey County experienced a rise in median home values within that time frame.

Vadnais Heights

The Vadnais Heights City Council unanimously approved a levy increase of 2.04 percent at its Dec. 3 meeting.

That levy will be $3,761,782, an increase of $75,319 from last year’s levy, the smallest relative cash increase to a levy in the Bulletin area.

The median single family home value in Vadnais Heights is up 7.4 percent this year to $224,900.

The market peaked in 2007 with a median value of $263,000. The market bottomed out in 2013 at $209,500.

The current median value is still roughly $38,000 less than the peak price.

Median commercial property values are in relatively good shape compared to the rest of the Bulletin area, off from their 2008 peak by just more than $93,000.

Still, the median commercial property value in Vadnais Heights slipped by 5.1 percent into 2015, down to $791,500.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

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