Asessors face changes

Freelance assessors contracting with townships in Becker County will no longer be able to assess property owned by themselves or their immediate relatives, according to Becker County Chairwoman Karen Mulari.

Freelance assessors contracting with townships in Becker County will no longer be able to assess property owned by themselves or their immediate relatives, according to Becker County Chairwoman Karen Mulari.

"The assessor (Steve Skoog) and I talked about this nepotism that we're being accused of in this county," she told the County Board Tuesday. "We went through the list and the 58 parcels in question will be reassessed."

The change in policy appears to stem from charges leveled by the Becker County Taxpayers Association, which has long called for changes in the way property is assessed in the county.

Mulari told fellow commissioners that "relatives assessing relatives is not going to happen anymore. Some assessors were also assessing their own land. That is not going to happen anymore."

The change was spurred in part by a new code of ethics and conduct recently adopted by the state association of county assessors, Mulari said.


There are 12 assessors working Becker County, and they will assess property considered a conflict of interest for fellow assessors. Assessors will no longer determine the value -- and therefore the property taxes -- on land they own, or land owned by their parents or siblings. The policy will not apply to property owned by more distant relatives such as uncles and cousins, Mulari said.

"They should have excused themselves (from obvious cases of conflict of interest) before this code came in," she said. "Now they have to."

Commissioner Bob Bristlin asked what would happen if a new assessor finds more taxes should have been paid on those 58 parcels in past years.

"We're not going to do back taxes," Mulari said. "Most were probably harder on themselves." She said she talked to one woman who was relieved a relative would no longer be assessing her property, since she believed it was valued on the high side.

The new policy will go into effect this year, Mulari said. It applies to land owned by an assessor's spouse, parent, son or daughter by blood or marriage. An assessor also cannot establish a value on property owned by himself or with which he has a financial interest.

Commissioners also:

n Supported a landowner petition to clarify the name of a lake in Lake Park Township. "Bijou Lake" will eventually be granted official recognition by the state and federal governments.

The name "Bijou" which is French for "a jewel" has been associated with the lake since at least 1900, according to the petition by landowners.


But the lake has long been called by several names. It is called "Bescau" in a 1928 version of the Gazetteer of Meandered Lakes of Minnesota, and is named "Beseau" in the 1968 version of An Inventory of Minnesota Lakes by the DNR, with "Bijou" listed as an alternate name, according to information compiled by Kent Lokkesmoe, director of the DNR Waters department.

A public hearing on Tuesday brought no objection to the name clarification, so Lokkesmoe will now forward the new lake name to the federal government for mapping and naming purposes, a process that takes about six months, according to Jay Carlson, who represented petitioners before the county board.

n Talked about overlay work on county roads 143 and 124. Bristlin reported that the White Earth Band may not be able to make a contribution as planned for the road work.

Commissioner Barry Nelson castigated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for holding the county and state to stringent environmental rules on a quarter-mile stretch of Highway 224 that is being rebuilt between Ogema and White Earth village.

Instead of reaching an informal, common sense agreement with the county, the federal agency is insisting on following the letter of the law, which will needlessly cost the state thousands of dollars, Nelson said.

Nelson said the county is hoping to negotiate a more favorable management fee with Acumen, which manages Sunnyside Nursing Home for the county. He also reappointed Dan Aune of Lake Park to the EDA Board, and appointed Monique Anderson to the Extension Committee.

n Heard from the Becker Soil and Water Conservation Board, which agreed to perform weed inspection duties for the remainder of the year for about $15,500, which is the amount budgeted by the county for the job. The duties will be done by existing staff.

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