Olmsted County Board of Commissioners approve preliminary 2022 tax levy

(ABC 6 News) – The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners approved a preliminary (or “certified”) 2022 tax levy of $112,822,877. This represents a $5.2 million increase after no increase was implemented in 2021 to provide relief to taxpayers during the economic instability driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The levy increase will cover the county’s operational needs. Capital costs will be covered by state and federal aid, reserves, and proceeds from the sale of bonds.

“We kept a 0% increase in 2021 by not filling various vacant positions across the county and delaying projects,” explained Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch. “Keeping the levy flat during the height of COVID restrictions and unemployment was important for businesses and residents; however, this put additional pressure on the new budget for 2022.”

Also causing additional budget pressure, Welsch added, is a large, anticipated increase in health care spending for the county’s 1,300 employees in 2022. She also explained that eight of the county’s 10 labor bargaining units have all settled contracts for a 2.5% cost of living increase.

However, Welsch noted that while Olmsted County increases in population, the county continues to operate with a very lean workforce.

“We always aim to be as efficient as possible,” explained Welsch, “The ratio of our residents to employees has been flat over the past five years, in spite of adding new programs in some areas and continuously improving our operations.”

The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners will vote on the final 2022 tax levy at the board meeting to be held on December 14. At that time, the levy could decrease from the preliminary set in September, but it cannot increase.

While Olmsted County was allocated $31 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, about $16 million of that is dedicated to providing unprecedented support for affordable housing infrastructure and programs in Olmsted County. In addition to housing, $3.9 million will fund various other Olmsted County priorities based on internal needs assessments and conversations with community partners. The remaining almost $11 million of the county’s total American Rescue Plan Act award will be reviewed and allocated in the spring of 2022. See the Olmsted County news article from August 3, 2021 for additional information.

“Our Olmsted County team provides critical services across the entire community – from law enforcement and public safety to maintaining county roads and parks to providing care and services to vulnerable residents,” Welsch added. “In everything we do, we are committed to high quality service with care to the community and using public resources wisely.”

Olmsted County will be holding its Truth in Taxation meeting on December 2 at 7 p.m. in the Government Center board room at 151 4th Street SE in Rochester.