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County levy 1.4 percent, but some values shoot up

Next Tuesday, Dec. 22, the Becker County Board is expected to finalize a 2009, payable 2010 property tax levy of just over $17 million. This levy marks an increase of $238,552, or 1.38 percent, over the previous year's levy.

On Tuesday night, the commissioners held a public hearing to receive input on the levy and proposed 2010 county budget. Though attendance was sparse, there were roughly 12-15 people at the hearing.

Though the hearing was really focused on the levy and budget, most of the questions from the audience had to do with changes in their property valuation.

As one audience member put it, she didn't really feel the commissioners were justified in "patting themselves on the back" for a 1.38 percent levy increase when the taxes on her property went up 13.2 percent last year, and another 24.6 percent this year.

"My question is, when will it stop?" she asked.

County Assessor Steve Skoog noted that the value classifications assessed to each parcel of land were based on state statutes -- and there had been some changes to those statutes this year.

For instance, parcels that used to be classified as agricultural if even part of the property was used for ag purposes must now be assessed separately for each different use, he explained.

Commissioner Barry Nelson pointed out that Skoog is accountable to the state for the assessments that he assigns to each property, which must follow their market value as closely as possible.

"We can't tell him (Skoog) not to raise the assessed values (on a particular piece of property)," Nelson added. "We would be violating our oath (as commissioners), and Steve's oath as well."

Nelson also said that yes, he did feel pretty proud of the board's ability to hold the county levy increase to just 1.38 percent -- especially in light of a loss of roughly $450,000 in county programming aid revenue from the state.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454