Last month, the City Council approved a preliminary 2022 tax levy increase of 2.75%. The preliminary levy sets the maximum amount of property taxes that can be collected. When we adopt our final 2022 budget in December, we can reduce the levy, which we have done most years, but we can’t increase it.
Last year we also increased the levy 2.75%. That was the lowest levy increase in nearly a decade, and it was lower than nearly every other large city in the metro area. The average 2022 preliminary tax levy increase for the 15 cities that we often use for comparison is around 5%. At 2.75%, Bloomington’s preliminary levy increase is the lowest among those 15 cities. I want to share a bit more about how the 2022 budget has taken shape. This year’s budget discussion has been a lot different than last year’s.
As I’m sure you’ll remember, last year the City Council and City staff worked with a Community Budget Advisory Committee to make some tough decisions during a very challenging budget year. In 2020 and 2021, the City’s budget reduced the number of employees by eliminating 23 positions and reducing services in a number of areas. This year, there are still challenges, but they are ones that are largely within the City’s control—or at least are well-defined—so we have time to work through them.
We are still projecting a 2022 budget with revenues quite a bit below where we were in 2019—pre-pandemic—especially for revenues from lodging and admissions taxes. Those two revenues, mostly paid by people from outside of Bloomington who stay in our hotels or go on rides at Nickelodeon Universe, will likely be about $3 million less than what the City collected in 2019.
Staff and Council made the commitment to rework how we deliver services. The proposed budget maintains that commitment. The additions to the budget we are considering are related to current and future demands. While our staff has held the line on much of the budget for 2022, we need to address several areas. One of the most important is public safety, and specifically, managing the evolution of the Bloomington Fire Department. The biggest issue BFD is facing is recruitment and retention.
We don’t take the decisions we make regarding taxes lightly. People aren’t out of the woods yet from the effects of the pandemic and the City Council knows that. As we work through our budget for 2022, we will continue to work with our staff to understand how the economy is affecting people and how the decisions we make will impact tax payers.
There will be two opportunities in October for the public to participate in 2022 budget discussions and information sessions:
Wednesday, October 20, 7 – 8:30 p.m., virtual meeting on Zoom
Wednesday, October 27, 7 – 8:30 p.m., in the City Council Chambers at Bloomington Civic Plaza, 1800 West Old Shakopee Road