More South-West cities set preliminary 2020 numbers

With September coming to a close, cities are setting their preliminary budgets and levies, which Dakota County must certify by Sept. 30.

South St. Paul set its cap Sept. 16, while Mendota Heights approved its preliminary numbers Sept. 17.

Both cities set their maximum budgets and levies; before final approval in December they may lower the numbers but they can’t increase them.


South St. Paul

Michelle Pietrick, finance director, said the city’s 2020 budget goals were a balanced budget while maintaining core services and supporting the council’s priorities and long-term financial planning, with specific allocations for the infrastructure fund, which is a new initiative this year.

The preliminary 2020 budget, which will cover the general fund, library fund, Doug Woog Arena, debt service and the new infrastructure fund, totaled a little over $21 million, an increase of 5% from 2019.

The property tax levy is proposed to be roughly $13 million, a 6.5% increase over 2019.

Pietrick said the increased taxes will go towards operations, infrastructure replacement and debt service. 

The median estimated home value is increasing to $214,000 for next year, up more than $26,000 from 2019. The owner of that median-valued home would see their annual city tax bill increase $113 to $1,193 for 2020.

“Of that amount, $77 is strictly related to the value, so if there had been an ability to not increase the levy dollars, taxes would have still increased,” Pietrick said. 

City Administrator Joel Hanson said the city received Local Government Aid funds from the state, which will all go into the capitol improvement program.

Council member Bill Flatley said the infrastructure fund is needed.

“We’re an aging community. Every time we have projects and they dig under the ground, they find more and more things that need work,” he said. 

The council unanimously passed all items related to the budget and levies. A public hearing on the 2020 budget will be held Dec. 2.


Mendota Heights

Mendota Heights Finance Director Kristen Schabacker said the city’s proposed 2020 levy is approximately $10.1 million, which is a 7.28% increase from 2019. The preliminary budget for all funds is roughly $16.6 million.

Schabacker said the taxable market value for the city increased almost 9% from 2019. The average residential home value increased 7.39%, and the median home value in Mendota Heights increased to $408,407.

With the 2020 levy, city taxes for the owner of a median-valued home will increase by $80 to $1,618.

Schabacker said this is a 5.2% increase in the city portion of property taxes.

New items in the 2020 budget include a parks maintenance worker budgeted for the entire year, an office assistance position and an increase in workers compensation and firefighter pension contributions. Cost of living adjustments for employees and a 10% increase in the city insurance contribution also increased the budget.

City Administrator Mark McNeill said there’s not much in the budget that he would describe as discretionary spending. Schabacker said city staffers are still doing some research on another insurance option that may save the city some money. 

The council unanimously approved the preliminary budget and levy, with council member Jay Miller absent.

There will be a public meeting on Dec. 3 to discuss the proposed budget. The final levy and budget need to be certified by Dec. 30. 


–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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