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Osakis Voices: Why did my valuation go up?

When is enough, enough when it comes to taxes?

Back in the first part of April, Todd County sent out what I call the blue sheets or property valuation notices for 2019, payable in 2020. Within a few days of these being mailed, my phone started ringing. Now, I was not only getting calls from my district but was getting calls from some of the other districts.

First words to me were, "Why did my valuation go up? I did nothing to improve my property." Well, these valuations went up anywhere from $25,000 to $426,000. I had many go up $50,000 to over $100,000 in District 5. My wife's and mine went up $41,300.

So off I went to see Todd County Assessor Chris Odden on what the blank is driving these steep increases. Well, the State of Minnesota's tax formula is based on sales. Someone in West Union Township sold their land for $8,000 per acre so the state figures we can all sell our land for that, which in turn raises our valuations.

There are a couple of ways you can look at this. I had someone tell me, "Well, look how much more you can sell your property for." Yes, this is true, but what if I do not want to sell? Many of us have worked hard to own that piece of land or bought that dream lake lot to one day retire on. I have a neighbor that pays $700 per month just in taxes. Todd County has an aging population, many on fixed incomes, how much more can they afford?

And as commissioners, we have always pushed to keep our seniors in their own homes. We also know Todd County is an ag county. Take a look at our farmers with the commodity prices for corn, soybeans and milk. At a commissioners' meeting, a woman told us their family farm valuation in Ward Township went up over $300,000. Again, I asked what is driving these valuations to go up. I was told people from outside Todd County are willing to pay top dollar for property within the county, again driving up the property valuations. Another thing people do not understand is that they must go to the local Board of Appeal and Equalization meetings at the townships and cities first in order to go to the Todd County Board of Appeals meeting on June 17.

Here is some of our property valuations on residential homestead estimated market value assessment over the years: 2012 — $126,400; 2013 — $128,400; 2016 — $98,200; 2017 — $101,300; 2018 — $111,200; 2019 — $152,500. I could not find 2014 or 2015. As you can see, we had a $30,200 decrease in our property valuation from 2013 to 2016 and from 2016 to 2019 a $54,300 increase.

Commissioner Becker gave me an example of a farmer in her district who has a large field, half is in Moran Township the other half in Fawn Lake Township. The Moran half is valued more that the Fawn Lake half, both are in the Staples School District and both townships have not changed their levies in three years.

I am not an assessor and what I have found researching our state's property valuation for taxes is very complicated. Here are some average prices on land per acre in District 5 for 2019: Leslie — $2,359, Gordon — $3,866, West Union — $4,095, Little Sauk — $2,576, Kandota — $3,293, Round Prairie — $2,679 and Birchdale — $3,154. Here are some 2019 lake front foot value in District 5: Little Birch — $1,400, Fairy — $850, Higgins Long — $700.00, Latimer — $400, Little Osakis — $600, Osakis — $1,000, Sauk — $850, Little Sauk — $500, Lily — $400 and Long — $650.

In District 4 Big Birch Lake is the highest at $2,050 with Mound coming in at $1,275. Another item I will share is 2018 gross tax per commissioner district. Here is the order: District 5 — $8,777,605 or 29 percent of the total; District 4 — $7,158,367 or 24 percent; District 1 — $5,121,218 or 17 percent; District 2 — $4,809,551 or 16 percent; and District 3 — $4,364,790 or 14 percent.

Todd County has little commercial and industrial tax base to help with the tax burden. Our taxes mostly come from agriculture/rural, residential/seasonal. We as commissioners must control the spending at the county level. I pushed for a hiring freeze and it was voted down 3-2. I am looking for a full house at the Monday, June 17 County Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting at 6 p.m.

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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.