From the County Manager Column from Aug. 24, 2021

Proposed 2022-2023 budget sustains and scales investments in transformative change

This morning I had the privilege and opportunity to present the proposed 2022-2023 budget to our board of commissioners. The theme of this year’s budget is “Sustain and Scale”. In short, the proposal sustains the investments in transformative organizational change that we launched in 2020-2021, and refines them following all that we in our community and organization have experienced and learned through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch a video of today’s presentations

You can also read the press release on the presentation of the 2022-2023 budget.

Unlike most counties, we use a two-year budget cycle in Ramsey County to provide predictability for our community and businesses, to more closely align with state budgeting, and – usually – to use the second year to focus on Performance Measures. The first year typically is focused on the dollars and the second year is typically about as assessment of the outcomes we’ve effected with those dollars.

Of course, 2020 was not a typical year and in response Commissioners approved reducing a proposed 2021 property tax levy increase of 4.5% to 0%, providing needed relief to our residents and businesses at a time of once-in-a-century challenge and crisis. At Ramsey County, a cornerstone to our budgeting is balancing needed services with the community’s ability to pay for them. In the 2022-2023 budget, we leverage new federal revenue from the American Recovery Plan Act to fund our community and organizational priorities and hold down increases in the property tax levy. None of this has come easy. In balancing the community’s needs with inflationary pressures within the County’s budget, difficult prioritization was an important part of this process. I am pleased with the final outcome, and I want to acknowledge everyone who played an integral role in the proposed budget’s development.

The 2022-2023 budget includes sustained funding for transformative change initiatives introduced in the 2020-2021 budget, as well as new funding for “Foundational Excellence”, a related initiative that dedicates resources to meet community expectations through operational supports within our organization.   

This year will be the first that we have a new revenue source in the Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy. Until this proposed budget, Ramsey County has been the only metro county not to utilize this authority to fund areas such as affordable housing. We propose to use the approximately additional $11.1 million raised in each of the next two years to begin enacting our Economic Competitiveness & Inclusion Plan to address the housing crisis and begin investing to counteract historic institutional racial, ethnic, geographic and economic inequities in housing.      

Following my presentation of the proposed budget, other county leaders provided the board with important context that is important to evaluating the priorities and initiatives outlined in the 2022-2023 budget:

  • County Assessor Luis Rosario shared a mid-year update on property values.
  • County Auditor-Treasurer Heather Bestler provided information on property tax trends.
  • Director of Policy & Planning Elizabeth Tolzmann provided an update on our 2021 Community Indicators.
  • Chief Financial Officer Alex Kotze provided an update on our current budget fund balance report.

Taken together, these presentations provide our community and other stakeholders with a complete picture of the intersection of underlying trends in our community and how our budgeting and planning process anticipates and addresses them based on current fiscal and economic realities. I extend my thanks to all of the staff who put in countless hours of work to develop and bring all aspects of this budget together into a form that allow us to present it clearly for our elected officials and broader community. 

Staff session and public input

For the first time this year, we held community conversations on the 2022-2023 budget process to encourage engagement throughout the budget process. Following that, I’ll be hosting another community conversation to discuss the proposed budget and a conversation with employees on August 30. At the session for employees, I’ll provide an overview of the budget and also answer your questions to keep you informed on the decisions leading up to the budget I proposed today. Please attend if you are able - I look forward to this important conversation with you about what this budget represents for our organization. A video of the virtual meeting will be posted and shared out on RamseyNet afterwards, too.

Public input from our residents, businesses and community stakeholders is a vital piece of the budget process. This feedback helps our commissioners make the most informed decisions as they review and consider the budget that will guide our work for the next two years. Please help us spread the word about the proposed budget and opportunities to provide feedback on the budget both online through the Chief Clerk’s Office and in person at two public hearings:

  • Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m. at Saint Paul City Hall – Ramsey County Courthouse.
  • Nov. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at a physical and/or virtual location to be determined.

The full budget schedule and materials are available at ramseycounty.us/Budget.

Again, I encourage you to watch the video of today’s presentations and attend or watch the video of the August 30 employee budget conversation as we continue to discuss the proposed budget and our priorities for the next two years. This is a significant and shaping time where we transform our words into action. I hope you see in my presentation our organization-wide commitment – through good times and bad –  to continuing build a community in which all are valued and thrive.