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

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Great River Energy to pay less in Carlton County


January 10, 2019

Another Minnesota Tax Court settlement has come down with several large utility interests such as Enbridge still to be finalized. Word has come that Great Rivers Energy utility will now be assessed less for their line that crosses western Carlton County north and south affecting the townships of Split Rock, Automba, Lakeview, and Beseman.

County Auditor Paul Gassert explained via a phone call, “This is just one more of the Minnesota Tax Court Settlements. The most expensive ones like Enbridge are yet to be decided completely. The impact to the county tax receipts coming in for the levy dollars the county board has requested for the 2019 budget year will be nil. This 1 1/2 percent tax impact will be spread over every remaining tax payer in the county.”

Gassert continued, “The townships affected in western Carlton County will also see a change. Great Rivers, who has a large transmission line built in the 1970s, will have a lower assessed valuation and thus pay less in property taxes. Other property owners in the affected townships will pay slightly more to cover this reduction. It probably will be negligible. In turn, school districts and fire and ambulance districts will have less of their levy needs come from the highline company and a little more from the remaining taxpayers in western Carlton County.”

Gassert summed up, “There will be no loss of income for the county, townships, schools or affected local taxing districts. Great River Energy will pay a little less and the rest of the County or local taxpayers will pay a little more.”

Great River Energy litigation is the fourth case to be settled. Two of the earliest cases resulted in a net refund by all affected Carlton County taxing districts of $345,017.10 plus a reduction of their market value for future taxation. The last two cases, one of which was Great River Energy, received no refund money but both will have a reduced market value for future taxation.

Three cases are left to be finalized — Lake Country Power, Northern Natural Gas and Enbridge. Enbridge was the first to file at the Minnesota Tax Court. Enbridge is the largest taxpayer in the county and can have the biggest impact for property taxes paid closely followed by Northern Natural Gas.

In a pending court decision that has been appealed, Enbridge’s refund for years 2011-2013 would be $2.5 million with $1.1 as the county’s share, $200k the affected eastern townships, $400k school districts, and $700k State of Minnesota.

The tax impact grows in the still-to-be-decided Enbridge case litigation for 2014-2017 with an additional burden of refunds from the county, school districts, and townships of an estimated $3 to 3.5 million. Enbridge’s market value for taxation purposes would drop 25 percent for those past years and in the near future.

“The tax impact could be mitigated depending upon timeline and added value of a new Enbridge Line 3,” said County Assessor Kyle Holmes. “This has a major impact on our county budget and the budgets of affected townships and school districts. We hope that the State of Minnesota through legislation will cover the payback obligations. The State of Minnesota, not the local taxing authorities, is solely responsible for setting the Estimated Market Value for taxing purposes.”


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