City, county taxes go down in Stillwater

STILLWATER — Washington County and Stillwater city taxes will go down this year, at least by a little bit, according to Stillwater City Administrator Larry Hansen.

“It won’t go down by a huge amount this year, but everyone’s should go down, which includes community developments and apartments, and that’s here and throughout Washington County,” Hansen said. “For example a home valued at $400,000 would have cost $2,500 (in taxes) last year and will be $2,300 this year, and that’s an overall decrease of about 7 percent.”

Residents will, however, see an increase in taxes paid to Stillwater Area Schools. The school district levy increase was not included on early statements mailed by the county. The school district has an online tax calculator to allow residents to see how the change will affect them.

The proposed Stillwater city tax rate has decreased to 3.1 percent based on home value. City tax on a median-valued property of $250,000 stands at $1,370.

Hansen said the decrease will not be to the city’s detriment, which was a concern expressed by Councilmember Doug Menikheim.

Budget-wise, not a lot has changed since last year when it comes to funding city services.

Some items of note that Hansen mentioned for 2014’s budget include:

• A $50,000 increase in the mayor and council budget.

“This isn’t an increase in spending money,” Hansen clarified. “This is money that was set aside for economic development that had no place else to fit in the budget.”

• An increase of $200,000 in the fire budget for the two new full-time firefighters.

• A large increase in the elections expenditures, because there will be an election this year. The amount listed for this cost is $38,532.

• Adding some money for contract work for the information technology department, which has been overwhelmed.

Hansen highlighted some other significant budget impacts for 2014, such as the local government aid from the state, which stands at $568,591. He added that on average, taxable residential property values decreased 1.6 percent, and there was no increase in health insurance costs.

“This is great because in the past our health insurance costs have been as high as 30 percent,” Hansen said.

A 2 percent contractual increase in wages was also part of the budget, and the total local taxable value increased by 6.1 percent because TIF District 4 was decertified in 2013, which means all the revenue collected in that area will now go into the general fund. A capital outlay bond was also issued for 2014.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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