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Woodbury levy increase finalized, will put more cops on streets

This chart represents the rise and fall of the recession with the number of sheriff’s sales in Woodbury. (Submitted by the city of Woodbury)

Woodbury taxpayers will see a 2.76 percent increase in their property tax levy payable in 2014 after city officials approved the measure at the annual truth-in-taxation hearing last week.

City Council members approved the $70 million budget last Wednesday, which represents new personnel, new construction revenue and an uptick in the taxable market value of local homes.

The levy increase was not unanimous, however, with Council Member Christopher Burns casting the only dissenting vote.

Burns said he believes city departments could’ve been more conservative in the hiring process.

“The budget that the rest of the council voted for is a good budget,” he said. “I just think we could’ve done a little bit better.”

The 2014 budget includes two new police officers bringing the force up to 69 sworn officers and personnel including 15 trained as police officers/firefighters.

The budget also adds support staff in the engineering, parks and recreation and community development departments totaling seven new hires.

City Administrator Clint Gridley said new staff supports a growing population without increasing service fees and keeping water and sewer rates flat.

But Burns said 70 percent of the budget covers existing and new staff expenses, which could’ve been tightened.

“Maybe not add as many positions this budget cycle,” he said. “Those are always difficult decisions once you add people you very rarely subtract.”

The 2014 levy is the fourth lowest in 20 years, with the highest being a 30 percent increase in 1995.

The average home value – about $235,000 – will see an increase of $6, while others in the rural homestead category will see a $56 bump. Some homes will see decreases in the city portion of taxes.

“The impact on the taxes will be very individualized,” Gridley said. “Six dollars is the average value home (impact) but it’ll be different person to person and home to home.”

Woodbury maintains its AAA bond rating, the highest possible, with 97 percent of residents taking the biannual survey rating the quality of life at excellent.

The city also continues to attract new construction with 200,000 square feet added in 2013.

Woodbury is expecting new housing units to continue the trend upward, which has been ranging between 200 to 500 units over the last five years.

Woodbury gained 365 new housing units this year and the city is projecting another 275 in 2014.

“That’s in part impacted by the number of available lots to build on, frankly, going fast,” Gridley said. “We don’t have as much new platted lots as we’d like to have.”

Taxable market values are showing an uptick for the first time since 2009, a sign of economic recovery as well, Gridley added.

Another sign of recovery could be seen in the number of sheriff’s sales, which continues to decline from 204 last year to 127 this year.

“Rising to peak of 421 at the pinnacle of the recession in 2009 and falling every year thereafter,” Gridley said of the number of foreclosed units. “Indeed as you can see, we are well on the road to recovery and in a much better place than we were in previous years.”

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.