County Manager Column from Dec. 21, 2021

Board approves 2022-2023 budget continuing to advance transformative change

The board of commissioners unanimously approved the 2022-2023 budget this morning, concluding a months-long process which involved input from leaders and staff from across the organization and residents - including through our first-ever series of virtual Budget Community Conversations.

Watch the video

I encourage you to watch the video of today’s board meeting and again revisit the materials at ramseycounty.us/budget. Thank you to all of those who have worked on our budget process – with a special shoutout to the Finance department – to advance us beyond this milestone today.

In short, the approved budget did not change significantly from what I proposed to the board in August (we did realize about $1.25 million in additional state grant funding since then). This budget includes sustained funding for transformative change initiatives introduced in the 2020-2021 budget and new funding for “Foundational Excellence”, a related initiative that dedicates resources to meet community expectations through operational supports within our organization. These supports include expanding capacity for internal audits and investigations, resources for equity and inclusion compliance, building a central contract and management function, and adding community audits of our services.  

Here’s the numbers:

The biennial budget passed by the board totals $774.1 million in 2022 and $783.2 million in 2023. This represents an increase of $25.3 million (3.4 percent) over 2021 and an increase of $9.1 million (1.2 percent) from 2022 to 2023.

Commissioners also set the 2022 property tax levy at $338.7 million. This increase of 1.55% compares with a statewide average increase of 3.7% in 2022 - one of the ten lowest among Minnesota’s 87 counties. Property taxes are the top funding source for all of our services and programs at about 43 percent of the budget.

It’s important to remember, of course, that individual property owners will all experience different changes in valuations and property taxes. These are based on a number of factors including the type of property and changes in market value. If you’re looking for a quick overview of how property taxes and values function and relate, we’ve developed a series of videos in multiple languages to view and share.

Commissioners also approved $11.1 million for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Prior to passage today, Ramsey County had been the only metro-area county in Minnesota not to utilize this authority. The $11.1 million – generated through property taxes – will be used to fund affordable housing efforts and the priorities of the county’s Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion Plan (ramseycounty.us/EconomicInclusion).

In the 2022-2023 budget, we also leverage federal revenue from the American Recovery Plan Act to fund our community and organizational priorities and hold down increases in the property tax levy.  

As Chair Carter told our guests at the public hearing on the budget in November:

“Please know that every hour of every day of this pandemic we have been working to provide county services to those that need them while maintaining responsible fiscal stewardship of your hard-earned tax dollars. In 2021, we leveraged federal COVID funding and our own rainy-day fund to meet our obligations to our 550,000 residents, tens of thousands of businesses, and our 4,000 employees. As we consider the budget for 2022, we are again balancing services with the ability to pay for them by leveraging federal dollars.”

The passage of our budget always serves as an important landmark, telling the story of our values and priorities for a particular point in our history. At Ramsey County, a cornerstone to our budgeting is balancing needed services with the community’s ability to pay for them. We have earned national recognition for many years running for our fiscal acumen and responsibility and have upheld this reputation which has guided us through good times and bad.

I am so thankful for the thoughtfulness and care that our staff up and down the organization who are involved in our budget process show in balancing community and organizational needs. I’m equally as thankful for care and stewardship of the resources we are entrusted with on behalf of our community that I see staff throughout the organization exhibit every day.  

Heading into the holidays following this exceedingly challenging year, I wish you peace, health, joy and merriment among family and friends this season. Happy New Year as we look to 2022 in Ramsey County with resolute optimism and compassion for one another. Thank you again for your dedication and service to our community throughout 2021.