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Editorial: The burden of local levy limits

Daily Globe

It appears Nobles County will see many potential needs unmet in 2014, but not as a result its staff or commissioners.

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The county — along with many local government entities across Minnesota — learned Monday that it will be required to implement a no-net-gain property tax levy in the coming year. The state’s calculated Nobles County levy limit for 2014 was set by the state at $10,147,812, which is less than the county’s certified levy of both 2012 and 2013. As a result, the property tax limit will remain at $10,942,427, the same it was in 2013.

Essentially, what this means is the county will need to go back to the budgetary drawing board. The 2014 property tax levy had been slated to increase to more than $11.3 million, but now there’s a roughly $400,000 gap to fill.

In theory, the state-mandated levy limits are good. Counties and municipalities receive state aid, so from that standpoint are asked to manage their money responsibly and live within their means — and not pick their taxpayers’ pockets in a frivolous fashion.

By the same token, however, we elect our local government officials to work on our behalf. If county commissioners moved a tax increase forward that we didn’t like, for instance, we can vote them out of office, right? Besides, the folks in St. Paul setting levy limits clearly can’t see specific needs under consideration at local and county levels. In Nobles County alone, among the budget requests being sought are a 36 percent increase in the county assessor’s budget, $80,000 in emergency management upgrades, various increased appropriations ... the list is lengthy, indeed.

Levy limits keep those at the local level from doing what they can do make our communities better places. Yes, tax increases are definitely a drag, but legislators at an often politically divided Capitol shouldn’t be able to control our destiny here at home.

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