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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Levy Limits

A city council sets many rules for itself, but a lot of what we have to deal with are the laws and regulations imposed by higher levels of government. This is why the League of Minnesota Cities employs lobbyists, to encourage our state legislators to pass laws beneficial to our cities and to oppose ones that make city governance more difficult.

In the recently ended legislative session, one part of the budget compromise is sure to play a big role in our city's planning for the next year: levy limits. Under the agreement worked out between the legislature and the governor, cities and counties will be limited in how much they can increase their revenue from property taxes. The LMC has put together a short document to help cities understand how the levy limits will be applied. The basic limit is a 3.9% increase, adjusted by increases in population and new commercial property construction. There are exceptions for things like levies for bonds approved by taxpayer referendum. (Local Government Aid is also part of the calculations, but Maplewood doesn't currently get any so it doesn't apply to us.)

I don't have a problem with the idea of keeping our city's levy increase under this limit. I'd be aiming for that kind of fiscal restraint in any case. But we do have some unique risks in Maplewood -- for example, with our new insurance terms, which subject us to higher per-incident deductibles and no aggregate deductible for certain types of claims. If we get another wave of litigation like the kind that hit us in early 2007, the result would almost certainly be cuts to city services. We also face other challenges, such as skyrocketing health insurance premiums for city employees. (I hear rumors of a potential 44% increase if we don't change providers or coverage.) The 2009 budget process is going to require tough decisions and honest negotiations, and a willingness of everyone to come together to share the burden, in order to navigate through the present situation while doing our best to maintain a strong city in the long run.


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