The Pine County Board of Commissioners held its annual truth in taxation meeting on Thursday, December 8, at the Pine County Courthouse. County Administrator David Minke presented the 2017 budget explaining 2017 budget goals, department expenditures, details on the levy and property tax calculation, and tax rate comparisons.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a small crowd of Pine County residents gathered to voice concerns about the 6.6 percent increase over last year’s county budget and levy, an increase of $1,036,282 for a total levy of $16,979,081. They also expressed concerns about their increased assessed property values which are resulting in higher property taxes.
One resident asked why the county couldn’t balance its budget like people balance their household budgets, not spending more than they take in.
During the presentation, Minke stated the biggest increase in the levy is seen in the general fund at $787,003 with the sheriff’s department increased by $220,286, court security increased by $136,128 and information technology (IT) by $101,683. The highway department also increased its levy portion by $100,000.
Administrator Minke explained that a large portion of jail revenue loss is due to the increase in arrests in Pine County and the subsequent filling of the jail with non-boarders. Boarding revenue in 2016 was budgeted at $529,000, but as of November, the actual revenue was only $209,907.
According to Minke, the $16,979,081 levy is 66.45 percent of the total allowable levy amount or tax capacity rate set by the Legislature ($24,878,535 for Pine County). He pointed to a chart comparing county taxing rates. Pine County falls well below the 100.16 percent that Kanabec is levying and just slightly above the 64 percent that Isanti County is levying. Other neighboring counties such as Carlton and Chisago have a 77.42 percent rate (Carlton) and 73.29 percent (Chisago).
Changes in property value
While expressing concerns over a growing budget, residents also expressed concerns over increased assessed property values. Residents have seen property values increase from 2016 by approximately 8.5 percent. Commercial properties have increased by 5.1 percent, seasonal properties by 4.6 percent and agricultural properties have not increased since 2015.
In a later statement, County Assessor Kelly Schroeder stated that many properties had not been assessed or had been under-assessed. “Upon physically reviewing these properties, which had not been reviewed in a very long time (they are supposed to be assessed every five years), we found that these properties were significantly under-assessed,” she stated, referring to those who attended the meeting.
“We completely understand these are very large increases and are difficult to deal with,” said Schroeder. “However, we believe that these values much more accurately reflect what these properties are worth. These corrections have resulted in a much more equitable system for the other citizens whose properties have been accurately valued.”
She added, at the meeting, that anyone who would like their property reinspected to ensure that the county’s records are accurate can contact the assessor’s office and that she would willingly go out to their property.
The board referred residents to the County Board of Equalization meeting in June to address rising property values, and if they weren’t happy with those results, they would need to appeal their valuation for taxes payable through the tax court process. More information on that can be found at https://mn.gov/tax-court/forms/.