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No pay raise for county commissioners next year

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Once again, Becker County commissioners failed to get a pay raise for next year, and once again they have no one to blame but themselves.

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The board on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution keeping their pay and per diem rates unchanged from this year.

Commissioners are paid $22,137 a year, plus a $50 per diem for committee meetings. The board chairman earns an extra $600 per year.

New salaries have not yet been set for elected county officials such as the sheriff, auditor-treasurer and recorder, but they are expected to receive a small increase (about 2 percent) tied to increases going to non-elected department heads.

Sheriff Tim Gordon was praised by commissioners Tuesday, by the way, for coming in under-budget on all three budgets under his control.

Commissioners on Tuesday also talked about changing the county's abatement policy.

It now allows for property tax abatements in cases of clerical errors and hardship issues.

Abatements now are few and far between, but Commissioner Barry Nelson would like to possibly expand the definition of "clerical error" to include field work done by assessors.

County Assessor Steve Skoog said the assessment process is opinion-based. It involves the field assessor evaluating a piece of property and giving his opinion as to its value. It could open a can of worms to open assessor opinions to the "clerical error" exemption for abatements, he said.

"You want to be careful," Skoog said. "If you have a situation where appraisers are making opinions and you're fixing them as clerical errors -- that would be wrong ... I wouldn't want to go down that road."

Property owners are responsible for checking their annual valuation statements, Skoog said.

If there is a question, they can contact the county assessor's office, and if necessary can take the matter to the county board of adjustments.

Commissioner Larry Knutson said it would make more sense for the board to leave the "clerical error" definition alone and expand the "hardship" definition -- if it wants to go that route -- since that definition is left open to board interpretation.

The county board will look at the issue at greater length next month.

"I've talked to other county assessors, and they're interested in what Becker County does," Skoog said. "They aren't really comfortable with their (abatement) policies."

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