"Truth in Taxation" Hearing Gets Residents Asking About Taxes in St. Louis Co.

By KBJR News 1

"Truth in Taxation" Hearing Gets Residents Asking About Taxes in St. Louis Co.

December 8, 2011 Updated Dec 8, 2011 at 11:21 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - The idea may make you cringe, but property taxes are on their way up for many homeowners in Minnesota. Thursday, St. Louis County residents ask questions about those increases in a government mandated "Truth in Taxation" hearing.

The county board is proposing a 1.8 percent increase in the levy for 2012 or almost $2 million.

"The reason for that increase in two-fold. One is to address the gravel roads in St. Louis," said Gary Eckenberg, Deputy County Administrator.

There are 1,600 gravel roads to maintain. The other reason for the increase is the growing expense of the regional correction centers.

For some residents at the meeting, any increase was too much.

"It has to stop. One-point-eight doesn't seem like much but that's 1.8 that you added on from last year," said one speaker.

"So our standard that we have is increased every year? Correct?," asked another speaker to the county commissioners.

These comments are being echoed across the state as a result of changes by the state legislature.

Arguably one of the biggest changes is the elimination of the homestead credit, it's replacement, the "Homestead Market Value Exclusion" will likely make-up the biggest increase on property taxes.

"What that really did was is it excludes some of the market-value of your home for taxable purposes," said Eckenberg.

But when all those properties are marked down, the base to collect taxes from is also reduced.

"As values go down, the tax rate rises, if you want to still collect the same amount that you had previously," said Eckenberg.

While the change was approved by state lawmakers, not all of them agreed with this summer's decision.

"We need to restore that credit, so the thing that you spend your life building isn't lost," said DFL Representative Kerry Gauthier of District 7B.

"No northeastern Minnesota legislator voted yes," said DFL Representative Mary Murphy of District 6B.

No matter where the blame lies, or how hard leaders worked, for some residents, they say any increase is just too much.

Other residents at the meeting Thursday were not speaking out about tax increase, instead they supported programs they believed should be funded.

About 25 people stayed throughout the presentation of the county budget and the public comment, but at information booths set-up just outside the meeting, dozens of residents ask county officials more specific and sometimes personal tax questions.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike