The Ramsey County Board heard on November 29 from property owners of all kinds deeply worried about large increases in their projected property taxes for 2022. The county held its Truth-in-Taxation hearing on that date both online and at Saint Paul’s Union Depot, and there commissioners and county administrator Ryan O’Connor said they have worked hard to hold down spending while continuing to provide essential services.

With an infusion of $20.15 million from the federal government through the 2021 American Rescue Plan, Ramsey County is proposing a $24 million or 3.2 percent increase in its budget in 2022 and a $9 million or 1.2 percent increase in its budget in 2023. After holding the property tax levy flat at $326.07 million in 2021, the county is proposing a 1.55 percent levy increase in 2022 and a 4.54 percent levy increase in 2023. The levies would support a total county budget of $772.85 million in 2022 and $781.92 million in 2023.

Ramsey County’s Regional Rail Authority is looking at a 7.4 percent increase in its tax levy in 2022 and a 3.1 percent increase in 2023, for a total tax levy of $30.5 million. Meanwhile, the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority will be imposing a tax levy for the first time in 2022, at $11.1 million.

A dozen people addressed the County Board at the November 29 tax hearing.

Property owners complain of steep tax increases

“I was quite astounded by a 30 percent increase in my property taxes,” said Summit-University resident Steffon Newsome-Harris. She owns a duplex and rents out one unit. “It’s kind of difficult not to raise rents,” she said. However, her property is governed by Saint Paul’s newly enacted rent control ordinance, and that limits annual rent increases to 3 percent. Newsome-Harris said she works two jobs to make ends meet and tries to be a good neighbor. “I’m a good person to have in the community,” she said, “but I won’t be able to stay in Ramsey County.”

Those concerns were echoed by another landlord, who told county commissioners that with the 3 percent cap on rent increases and steeper increases in property taxes, she will not be able to afford to make improvements to her property.

Property owners who are retired and on fixed incomes said they simply cannot afford double-digit tax increases. One East Side resident said the market value on his home increased by more than 100 percent, sending his projected property taxes soaring.

Macalester-Groveland resident Patrick Boylan questioned the increase in the assessed market value of his home, saying that it is challenging for homeowners to keep up with rising property taxes as well as the increase in the cost of living due to inflation.

Hamline-Midway resident Kristine Holmgren is campaigning to have the state’s senior citizen property tax deferral program amended. To qualify for the deferral, she said, she would have to be in the same house for at least 15 years. However, she moved six years ago when she could no longer afford her larger home of many years.

Winston Nguyen said that in the years he has owned the commercial building at 854 University Ave., his property taxes have increased from $900 to $7,196 per year. He has also seen increases in the various fees and charges for his Tai Hoa BBQ restaurant there. With the ongoing fears of COVID-19, “we don’t make money,” he said.

— Jane McClure

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