The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners has adopted a maximum property tax levy for 2021 that is no higher than the levy for 2020, though some property owners are still complaining about steep increases in their estimated tax bill for next year.

Speaking at the county’s virtual truth-in-taxation hearing on November 30, Jon Reynolds and his wife said the property taxes on their Summit-University fourplex have risen 241 percent over the past five years, including an estimated 18.6 percent increase for 2021.

“Our taxes are almost $10,000 a year,” Reynolds said. “I ask you to look seriously at small landlords. We don’t want to see the increased taxes shifted to our tenants.”

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Melissa Taylor and Kyle Lawson bought their first home in June on Saint Paul’s East Side, and they said they were shocked to learn that their property taxes are going up an estimated 40 percent from 2020 to 2021.

Jim Fox testified that the taxes on his commercial property in Saint Paul are going up an estimated 27 percent next year. “That seems rather enormous,” he said.

Despite those concerns, the November 30 tax hearing was relatively amicable compared to past years when dozens of property owners lined up to testify. The County Board had hoped to hold an in-person hearing this fall in downtown Saint Paul, but switched to an online format due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases locally.

“This has been a year like no other,” said County Board chair Toni Carter.

“Our taxes are almost $10,000 a year,” Reynolds said. “I ask you to look seriously at small landlords. We don’t want to see the increased taxes shifted to our tenants.”

Next year is the second year in Ramsey County’s two-year budget cycle. The County Board had been considering a 4.5 percent increase in the property tax levy for 2021, but opted for no increase in recognition of the hardship many families and businesses are facing because of the pandemic and the civil unrest, looting and property damage following George Floyd’s death in May, Carter said.

The County Board is scheduled to adopt its 2021 budget and property tax levy on December 15. To hold the line on spending, vacant positions are not being filled, purchases are being delayed, and $2.8 million is being drawn from budget reserves to cover some one-time expenses, according to commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, who chairs the County Board’s Budget Committee.

The challenges of the pandemic are expected to continue well into next year, Reinhardt said. The county will be working to “squeeze every nickel” out of the revenue it has, “but we know these steps aren’t sustainable for the long term,” she said.

The Ramsey County budget for 2021, which was initially proposed at $763,123,318, has been trimmed to $747,471,298—a 0.9 percent increase over 2020. The proposed property tax levy to support that budget is $326,073,145, the same amount levied in 2020.

The levy as proposed would make up 43.6 percent of the county’s total revenue in 2021. Other funding sources include state and federal programs, local fees and charges, and the reserve fund.

County officials are considering changes in their capital improvement program for 2021, adding $5.2 million for affordable housing by shifting or dropping other planned spending.

The county has a separate levy for transit operations. The proposed property tax levy for the Regional Rail Authority in 2021 is $27,570,385—a 0.6 decrease from 2020.

For more information on their tax bill for 2021, property owners may call the County Assessor’s office at 651-266-2131.

— Jane McClure

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