City decreases levy 1.4 percent

Perhaps no public response is the best kind that government officials could receive when they finalize a levy for the coming year, and that was the case last Thursday for the city of Princeton.

The city council, after holding a short hearing for public input, finalized a levy of $2.20 million for 2013, which is a $31,180 decrease from this year’s levy of $2.23 million.

The council had originally considered the larger levy, but decided to decrease it by the same 1.4 percent that the estimated tax capacity had dropped for taxes payable in 2013. The estimated tax capacity is a measure of the valuation of all the taxable property in the city.

With less ability to carry the tax burden, the council decided that in order to not have the tax rate go up, it would have to decrease the levy. City Treasurer Steve Jackson had made the calculations and gathered the information on tax capacity from the auditor-treasurer offices in Sherburne and Mille Lacs counties. He then laid out the ramifications for the council on what would happen if the city kept the same levy next year as this year.

The ramifications appeared to be that the property taxes would be more burdensome for many properties if the city’s levy did not go down by 1.4 percent in 2013. Several commercial-industrial property owners complained about their 2012 property tax increase after the state Legislature had changed some property tax-related formulas.


The budget breakdown

General fund:

• current expenditures – $1.19 million

• police wage and benefit special levy – $721,441

• public employee retirement account rate increase special levy – $17,065

• COPS grant replacement levy – $21,500

• tax abatement levy – $35,000

• capital improvements – $75,600

• bonded indebtedness – $112,500

• Economic Development Authority – $17,895.

Jackson gave a report during the hearing on what makes up the budget and how different department expenditures have risen. Commenting on public safety, Jackson showed how the personnel expense there has risen from $732,242 in 2006, to $1.03 million for 2013, and that the capital expenditures have gone from a low of $12,518 in 2006, to $224,350 for 2013. The increased costs seen in public safety in Princeton are part of a nationwide trend, Jackson said.

Public safety will account for 42.34 percent of the city’s general fund expenditures during 2013, while general government will be 20.91 percent, public works will be 18.85 percent, other will account for 11.88 percent and parks and recreation will total 6.01 percent.

On the revenue side, taxes are the biggest source, accounting for 53.33 percent, while intergovernmental revenue (mainly state aid) will be 20.85 percent in 2013, followed by other, accounting for 14.39 percent, charges for services being 6.82 percent, licenses and permits at 4.17 percent and fines and forfeitures totaling 1.43 percent.

As the council talked briefly about the budget and potential revenue, the cost of the proposal by the police department to have a K-9 unit came up. Jackson noted that the intent of the council and the police chief is that grants and donations are a key part of the funding to make a K-9 unit possible. The police department is still researching whether those grants and donations will be available in an amount that the council will deem sufficient.