The Forest Lake City Council approved the city’s preliminary levy for 2018 at its Sept. 11 meeting. Once the preliminary levy is set, it cannot be raised higher than that amount when the final budget is approved in December. It can only fall or stay the same.
The council unanimously signed off on a total levy of $10.05 million, compared to a final levy of $9.48 million for 2017. Though the increase between next year’s preliminary levy and this year’s final levy is approximately 6 percent, most property owners’ tax increases will likely be considerably smaller than that, thanks to rising property values and new property value added in the city.
Thanks to an increase in the city’s tax capacity (which is tied to property values) of more than nine percent, the actual tax rate in the city is projected to fall from 43.47 percent to 42.04 percent, which is a 1.43 percent decrease. Because residential and commercial property values in the city are expected to rise next year, most property owners will still likely see a city tax increase, but it will be relatively small – likely less than half a percent for many commercial properties, and ranging somewhere between roughly two to five percent for many residential properties (the median value home in Forest Lake, expected to be worth $233,150 next year, is projected to see a tax increase of 3.2 percent, or $28.41).
Some council members encouraged the staff to find ways to get the word out that the six percent change in the levy was not indicative of what property owners’ tax bills would actually look like.
The $10.05 million preliminary levy is slightly larger than a proposed levy of $9.94 million discussed by the council in August, primarily thanks to the addition of funds to cover payroll costs in the surface water management fund without necessitating a rate increase. Read more about the levy in the Aug. 17 story “Council digs into 2018 budget, levy” or online at tinyurl.com/yaj892n8.
The council and city staff also bid farewell to Deputy Clerk Jolleen Chaika, who was working her last meeting before taking a job with Washington County. Council and staff members praised Chaika’s work ethic in her almost three years with the city.