Property owners cite concern about tax increasesWORTHINGTON — Four rural landowners appeared before Nobles County Commissioners during Thursday night’s Truth in Taxation hearing in response to their latest proposed property tax statements — many of which showed a 15 percent to 25 percent increase in the value of their rural property.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Four rural landowners appeared before Nobles County Commissioners during Thursday night’s Truth in Taxation hearing in response to their latest proposed property tax statements — many of which showed a 15 percent to 25 percent increase in the value of their rural property.
The hearing is conducted each year to explain how tax dollars paid to the county are generated and spent. To reflect the increasing prices paid for agricultural land in the county, this year’s property tax statements reflect a shift in where tax dollars are generated.
In 2012, 63.66 percent of the county’s proposed budget will be funded by taxes paid on agricultural land, compared to 58.59 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, residential property owners saw a drop in their share of the county’s property tax burden, from 22.15 percent in 2011 to 17.55 percent in 2012.
Over the course of the past month, county commissioners and administration have continued to work on the 2012 budget to keep the levy increase at a reasonable rate. On Thursday night, county administrator Mel Ruppert presented a proposed levy of $10,491,040, reflecting a 6.96 percent levy increase over the 2011 levy. The new figures are a decrease from the initial 8 percent levy increase identified in October. Included in the levy is the $300,000 expense for the ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response) system for law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel.
The county’s proposed budget for 2012 is $27,089,865; with approximately $800,000 anticipated in program aid from the state legislature to help offset the costs of county government.
Landowners appearing before the board Thursday night included Robert Zinnel, who was concerned about the high increase in his taxes for land in Hersey Township.
“I was just flabbergasted with the amount of increase,” Zinnel said, adding that his property tax statements from 2006 through proposed 2012 reflected a 77.1 percent increase. He asked if this was a standard increase for everyone in the county.
Nobles County Assessor Byron Swart said Zinnel’s increase was consistent with most other agricultural properties.
“Ag land in the county averaged a 17 percent increase this last year,” Swart said. “The shift is coming into your tax bill.”
Bob Dieter expressed similar concerns, and said he was “a bit disturbed” by the pay increase county commissioners gave themselves for 2011.
Les Madison, who owns properties in Larkin Township, said his property taxes increased from 6.2 percent to 21.83 percent and his property values also were increased significantly.
“The portion of my township taxes that went up was only $10.86 or 4 percent; and the county’s went up over 18 percent,” Madison said, adding that his school district taxes dropped 4.78 percent. “I’m thinking that Nobles County should try to tighten their belt just like everyone else is.”
Commissioner David Benson, who has farmland in Bigelow Township, sympathized with the landowners.
“It’s a little unsettling to see the effects on valuation,” he said, adding that his two 80-acre parcels saw increases of 21 percent and 26 percent.
“It’s only going to get worse,” added Commissioner Diane Thier, announcing that a farm land sale near Hull, Iowa, on Wednesday sold for $20,000 per acre.
Final action on the 2012 budget and levy will be taken during the Nobles County Board’s Dec. 20 meeting, to begin at 9 a.m., in the board room of the Nobles County Government Center, Worthington.