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Joe Atkins: Dakota County's 2017 taxes and budget by the numbers

Following a planning process that started last summer, the Dakota County Board adopted its budget for 2017 at its final county board meeting in 2016. Set forth below are highlights of the 2017 Dakota County budget.

You will note that rather than put a political "spin" on the budget numbers by offering my own description, the aim in this column is to let the numbers speak for themselves.

$360,370,899. This is Dakota County's total budget for 2017.

2 percent increase. The 2017 county budget increases the property tax levy by 2 percent, or about $16 per year on the average home in Dakota County, with the funds expended in the following areas (largest-to-smallest): social services mandated by the federal and state government; physical development like roads, bridges, parks/trails and plowing; public safety; libraries, property and other services.

No. 1 of 87 counties. Dakota County has the lowest property taxes per capita of any county in Minnesota.

20 percent of your tax bill. The county portion of your property tax payment represents about 20 percent of the total, with the city, school district and special taxing districts making up the balance. $577 vs. $863. The average county portion of property taxes paid by the owner of a median value home in Dakota County is $577. The metro county average is $863 in county taxes.

$40.6 million reduction. For 2017, the county budget decreased $40.6 million compared to 2016, representing about a 10.1 percent reduction. In 2016, the county budget was higher largely because the county board used a combination of reserves and levy to pay off the county's outstanding debt.

$0 debt. Dakota County engaged in a multi-year effort to pay off all its outstanding debt and now has zero debt. As you can see from the following list, being debt-free is a rarity among metro counties. Indeed, being debt-free is unique across the state and country. Here are the debt figures for the other metro-area counties: Anoka County ($104,955,000), Carver County ($22,065,000), Hennepin County ($721,810,000, Ramsey County ($182,245,000), Scott County ($59,130,000), and Washington County ($138,065,000).

1,859 full-time employees. Dakota County's 2017 budget authorized employment of 1,859.60 full-time employees or full-time equivalents (FTEs). For comparison, the total FTEs in 2009 for the county was 1,854, a difference of six employees.

0.004 employees per capita. Dakota County's 2017 budget continues the county's pattern of having the lowest number of employees per capita of any county in the metro area, at 0.004 FTE's per resident. Ramsey County and Carver County are on the opposite end of this measure, with nearly twice as many employees per resident. County employees are responsible for county roads, parks, libraries, public safety, waste management, property records, and community and social services mandated by the state and federal government, among other things.

I welcome questions and comments about the County budget, taxes or other issues. I also send out e-updates by email for those interested in receiving them. For questions, comments and to receive my e-updates, please contact me at Joe.Atkins@co.dakota.mn.us or by phone at 651-438-4430.

Joe Atkins represents District 4 on the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. District 4 includes portions of Rosemount, Eagan, and Inver Grove Heights.

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