The St. Louis County Board has approved a preliminary property tax levy of $126,550,079, an increase of 8.5 percent for 2017.

The levy - revenue collected from property taxes - makes up about one third of the St. Louis County budget. Each year, in establishing a preliminary levy, the Board must find balance between its goals for the services it wishes to provide, and the tax impact on citizens based on the cost of providing those services.

The increased money is needed to fund skyrocketing out-of-home placement costs and other investments in children and family services. Many people will see little change in their property taxes compared to two years ago due to the County's growing property tax base.

"We are as frustrated as anyone to see the levy increase like this," said Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chairs the Board's Finance Committee. "But we are seeing a level of need unlike anything experienced before, and it's simply not an option to ignore the increase reports of children being abused and neglected. We have to protect children and help them."

St. Louis County's Children and Family Services Division has been responding to a 45 percent increase in reports of child maltreatment this year compared to 2014. The state legislature has failed to pass a tax bill the last two sessions and Minnesota counties are being left with little funding support.

St. Louis County's property tax base has increased 8.0 percent in the last two years. That means, for a person whose property value has remained the same, the County portion of their property taxes will increase only slightly compared to two years ago. For instance, a home valued at $200,000 will see an increase of $1.09 for 2017 compared to 2015. 

Two meetings have been set to collect public input on the levy and budget:

St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia on December 1 at 7p.m.
St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth on December 8 at 7p.m.

Citizens are welcome to provide input at any County Board meeting, or by contacting commissioners directly.