Prior Lake city officials approved a preliminary 2020 tax levy increase of nearly 7% this week, and projections show the vast majority of residents will see an increase on their city property taxes next year.

The Prior Lake City Council approved a preliminary 2020 levy of $13,671,220— an increase of $893,185 or 6.99% compared to 2019.

City officials appeared to reach that figure on a technicality of parliamentary procedure after more than 40 minutes of discussion and six motions on the percent increase.

City staff initially proposed a preliminary levy of $13,797,737 — an increase of $1.02 million or 7.98%. The preliminary levy sets the absolute highest amount the city may increase the property tax levy next year. The proposed levy would give the council the funds for a preliminary budget of almost $31 million.

Finance Director Cathy Erickson said an estimated 8,195 homes, about 89% of all Prior Lake residences, would see an increase in their property values and an increase in the city portion of their taxes next year, according to Scott County.

The value change along with the proposed levy would result in an increase in the city tax amount by $25 for an average home valued at $349,600, by $50 for a $600,000 home and about $74 for a $900,000 home.

Erickson said that maintaining city service levels as-is would cost about $708,000, while increasing services — through a trail replacement program, website redesign and increased funding to the Economic Development authority — would cost an additional $312,000.

The council was ideologically divided over whether or not the proposal represented the best model for city budgeting.

Councilman Kevin Burkart said he believed there was “waste” in the city’s budget process and that he wouldn’t be comfortable with any levy increase above 5.9 %.

“Coming after the past few high growth years we should have a lower increase for our residents than 6 to 8%,” Burkart said. “Our staff continue to say that it’s catch up for past shortfalls, but that falls flat with me because it’s said every year.”

Councilman Zach Braid called Burkart’s comments misleading and said the councilman was minimizing the importance of debt reduction in the budget. He also responded to Burkart’s proposal to create a joint citizen-council budget committee, with “if you look to your left and you look to your right, this is the budget committee. This is what we are elected to do.”

Councilwoman Annette Thompson proposed an increase of 6.9%. Thompson said that her motion provided the council with enough cushion for any end-of-year financial surprises while encouraging staff to find a way to a smaller budget. Though the motion was supported by Braid, it died without support from another councilmember.

After another failed motion— this time by Mayor Kirt Briggs for a 7.4% increase. Braid proposed that the council reconsider Thompson’s motion. Burkart halted that suggestion by noting that parliamentary procedure required a council member on the majority side of the vote — in this case Briggs, Erickson or Burkart — be the one to initiate a motion to reconsider.

“Could I amend it to 6.99?” Braid asked in response. “There you go.”

The council will vote on the final tax levy and budget on Dec. 2.


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