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Concerns raised at taxation hearing

WORTHINGTON -- City, county and school leaders shed light on how property taxes are used locally Tuesday night during a combined Truth in Taxation hearing. Few members of the public, however, bothered to attend.

Those who did, like Ransom Township resident Rosemary Heideman, had real concerns about the rise in property taxes for those who own farm land. Heideman said seniors are getting taxed out of their homes, adding that her property taxes rose $300 last year alone.

"Taxes have gone up, I think, a lot higher than it has in the city," she added. "Where it takes most of your social security to pay for your taxes, there's something wrong somewhere."

Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said the county has seen a trend toward higher prices being paid for agriculture land. Ag land sales have a direct impact on the valuation process, thereby impacting the property tax rate as well.

Ruppert also cautioned that city residents, while their recent tax statement may have shown a decrease in property tax, will see their property taxes go up once the District 518 levy referendum is added in.

Heideman said she'd like to see Minnesota's property tax system follow that of Iowa, which bases property tax on the production rate of farm land.

In Nobles County, nearly 55 percent of the tax capacity comes from agricultural land, followed by nearly 28 percent from residential property and 14.6 percent from commercial/industrial property.

Of a property owner's total tax bill, roughly 43 percent of taxes paid goes to fund the county budget; 26 percent goes to townships/cities; 22 percent to school; 7 percent to state and 2 percent to special taxes such as watershed districts, the housing and redevelopment authority and the Southwest Regional Development Commission.

Nobles County's proposed 2007 budget is $25,102,085, representing a budget increase of 11.82 percent over the 2006 actual budget. The county anticipates collecting about $8.5 million in property taxes in 2007, up from $7.9 million in 2006.

District 518 Schools gets a relatively small portion of local property tax dollars, according to Dave Skog, director of management services. More than 88 percent of the district's 2006-2007 budget -- set at $2,338,452 -- was funded through state aid dollars, with just 4.32 percent of the funds coming from the local levy. In 2007, Skog said the school is looking at a proposed net levy of $3,503,938.

Brian Kolander, representing the City of Worthington, said the city's total net levy is $2.45 million for 2006, payable 2007.

Both the city and county will conduct final levy adoption for the 2007 budget yet this month, while the school operates on a different schedule -- they will adopt their 2007-2008 budget in June.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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