It’s the final quarter of the year, which means levy season is upon us. As cities, counties, and the state prepare their preliminary levies, they are also having discussions on the plans for 2021. For the public, this means beginning to hear about tax plans and future projects and being able to give their opinion on what they would like to see their taxes go towards in the coming year. At the County Commissioner meeting on September 1, the preliminary levy for Carver County had its first discussion of the year.
According to the meeting’s agenda, planning for the 2021 budget began in May. Due to the impact of COVID-19, county staff were encouraged to have a “no impact” levy for the average valued home.
David Hemze, county administrator, and David Frischmon, property and finance director, presented the plans for the preliminary levy to the commissioners. It’s important to note that this is the preliminary levy, meaning that after it is approved, it cannot increase. The levy can only decrease going forward.
“There’s obviously a lot going on with COVID-19 and affecting the budgets,” said Hemze. “Obviously, we’ve never had to prepare a budget like this before.”
Of course, one of the biggest challenges of planning the budget for 2021 is the COVID-19 pandemic. According the Hemze, there’s a lot of uncertainty moving forward. There are a few likely happenings, such as staying at home for work, but all in all there are constant changes. A big concern are state budget cuts, which are a possibility for next year, and “as an arm of the state” Carver County would be affected by cuts.
There is some good news from 2020, though. Property taxes didn’t see an increase in delinquency payments for the first half of the year. The second half is still being examined, especially since there have been the CARES Act, business grants, and more to help the many small businesses in Carver County. The budget is being designed to be flexible because of these many factors, as things continue to change.
The CARES Act awarded the county $12.9 million in funding. The plan going forward, according Hemze, is to keep $8 million for next year and continue using it to assist residents and business owners throughout the pandemic.
To help assist the future budget, capital projects have been scaled back until things stabilize a bit. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any projects, though. There are plenty of road projects that are ongoing, as drivers can attest to such as highway 212 in NYA. Health and social projects are also funded through the taxes, including immunizations and disease prevention as well as mental health, and elderly and disabled assistance programs.
“Public health is the highlight of this year,” said Hemze. “There isn’t a citizen’s life we don’t impact in one way or another right now.”
As part of the conversation for the actual budget increase, the commissioners looked back on previous levy increases. All in all, the 2021 levy won’t have a large increase as a no impact levy, only seeing a $1 million increase, or by 1.69 percent. Last year’s increase was $2.8 million, so this is just over a third of last year’s increase.
With that in mind, the total levy will be $60,073,855 with a county budget of $171,073,827. After thanking the county staff for their hard work in making a no impact levy. With all that said and done, the commissioners approved the preliminary levy for 2021 to be submitted to the State of Minnesota. The levy will continue to be reviewed throughout the rest of the year.