The trunk sewer line now being installed in the southwest corner of town off of Ideal Avenue South is an example of the real world impact of building and tax rates, with building demand rising to the southwest and elsewhere in Cottage Grove. Photo by Joseph Back.
Roland Reports on city budget

An overall tax capacity rising, but with rates held steady. This, in summation, was the repot by City Finance Director Robin Roland regarding the 2022 city property tax levy, passed and adopted at the December 1 Cottage Grove City Council meeting. With a motion made by Council member Dave Thiede that was seconded by Justin Olsen, the Property Tax levy as payable in 2022 passed 5-0, a relative routine action by cities enjoying a non-partisan government structure.

With the total expenditure for Mayor and Council members themselves totaling $91,660 for last year and budgeted at just $95,690 for the year to come—across five people—the total property tax levy for 2022 will be $18.339 million, spread out over a population of just over 38,000. Much of that increase will go to necessary city expenditures of the day to day kind.

With a projected increase of 4.26 percent in the levy as opposed to 2021—the fourth lowest increase in Washington County—much of the good news for overall taxes had to do with a factor of note: building!

“And that’s because of all the building that’s going on,” Roland said of the overall property tax rate being held low even as the city’s overall taxing capacity has risen, due to growth in numbers and housing.

To be more specific, the city’s total tax capacity has risen around one-third in just six years, from just over $30 million in 2016 to cresting above $45 million in 2022. That number could yet rise further, as current new construction is taxed at the lot permit rate for the first couple of years, with a windfall to come starting in 2023 to 2024.

That doesn’t mean everyone is happy about their tax bill—just ask Mayor Bailey. He hears about the high taxes “a lot” as he put it December 1 at the Council meeting. Bailey’s advice?

“Look at the line,” he said, noting that the city only controlled one part of the overall tax bill, while things like the school district, county, and other taxes also made up a share. With overlapping governments and jurisdictions both a gift and hazard of constitutional federalism in these United States, knowing where to look to complain, can take the pressure off city officials—unless, of course, they are deemed to have earned or deserved it.

In the meantime, tax rates are holding steady and below others in the county.

December 8, 2021