Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Traci LeBrun
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Increased taxes, increased tension

Pine County residents raise spending concerns to board

 

December 13, 2018



Things got heated at the truth in taxation meeting on December 5 as the Pine County budget was presented and as county officials allowed for public comment.

The source of angst for those residents who showed up to the meeting at the Pine County Courthouse was the increase in the budget and increase in their property value, thus increasing their taxes. The backlash came from the 9.7 percent increase in the total budget, which amounts to a 4.7 percent increase in the levy from 2018 to 2019, and the 6.72 percent increase in residential property values from last year.

County Administrator David Minke explained that the county’s budget is roughly $43 million, of which $17 million is paid for by landowners in property taxes.

Questions from the handful of citizens attending the meeting ranged from why spending is “so high in the jail,” why “property taxes have gone up so much,” to why “do we need a new building in Sandstone”.

Administrator Minke explained the main reasons for the increases are costs associated with human resources, along with the maintenance of vehicles and the new North Pine Government Center in Sandstone.

Commissioner Matt Ludwig, of Sandstone, added that the biggest increases came from wages and insurance.

“We had five years in a row of zero increase,” said Minke. “We are people-orientated and we gave people raises. The labor market is pretty tight, and it costs more to retain employees.”

Commissioner Steve Hallan, of Pine City, said, “We had no increases through the recession, and now we have to do a little catch up. Everything that you buy, we have to buy too, and it has all increased.”

Sandstone resident George Slama stated there is “never an attempt to keep it [taxes] at an even keel” and asked, “Can someone work harder to do that? I can rent an apartment cheaper than I can stay on my own property.”

Commissioner Hallan responded, “It's not for lack of working hard to keep it in check. We have whittled down the departments’ requests for funding.”

Commissioner Josh Mohr, of Pine City, said the budget meetings are open to the public and added, “We would love to have you there.”

More discussion ensued, and two men left the meeting with harsh words stated. Commissioner Hallan asked how others felt in the room.

Another resident responded, “My taxes also went up. I feel like that guy. I really do.”

In a later statement, County Assessor Kelly Schroeder said that property owners are sent the proposed value for the next year with the tax statements in the spring (the colored sheet behind the tax statements), and that is when the property owners can appeal their valuations at the Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting. “Right now we can only work on values for the 2019 assessment, taxes payable in 2020,” added Schroeder.

 

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