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County tables assessor request once again

WORTHINGTON -- After again hearing a plea from the assessor's office regarding a request for two new property appraiser positions, Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday again tabled action on the matter due to a lack of budget information.

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The request was initially made two weeks ago and tabled at that time because county administration had yet to collect information on the preliminary budget.

Little has changed in the two weeks since that decision was made, leaving commissioners with no option but to table the issue once again.

The request to add two new staff people to the assessor's office would have a 1 percent impact on the county's overall budget. With the state mandating a 3 percent levy limit for all counties for 2014, commissioners are concerned about the availability of funds to create the positions.

"I understand we have levy limits, but it doesn't change the situation the county is in," said County Assessor Joe Udermann on Tuesday.

Udermann has two full-time appraisers in his office, both Certified Minnesota Assessors working on their Accredited Minnesota Assessor certifications.

Deadlines to get their appraisals done on time are squeezing the department, and Udermann said it's "virtually impossible" to get the work done in the understaffed office. In recent weeks, three of the local assessors -- part-time individuals who appraise properties in certain townships -- have announced they are retiring due to the state's new certification requirements and the county's move toward a computerized appraisal system. Those retirements could result in the county taking over the assessments on another 5,145 parcels.

Commissioner Marv Zylstra suggested Tuesday that the three individuals could continue to do the appraisals the way they have been, with perhaps additional staff to enter the information into the computer system.

"Why don't we keep these people in our local townships?" he asked. "We're confronted with budgets, and bringing on staff is an issue. Maybe we somehow have to reach a compromise."

Udermann said he'd like people in place who can both go out in the field and take the measurements and then be able to enter their own information into the computer system.

So far, all of the assessments for cities within Nobles County have been entered into Vanguard, but none of the township parcels have been put into the system.

"Life would be much easier if you could get that into your Vanguard system," board chairman Bob Demuth Jr. summed up.

Udermann said the potential new employees could be entry level, with both he and appraiser David Voehl training them as they work through their CMA licensure.

Commissioner Don Linssen said he was concerned that Nobles County would become a training ground for appraisers who need to obtain their licensure.

"With the amount of counties that are in need of people ... (the trainees) will go to where the pastures are greener, and you can't blame people for that," Linssen said. "The commissioners that I've talked to in the last two weeks are in the same boat we're in, or worse. If you hire two people today and get them trained, I don't think that's going to take care of our problem."

"We just have to make it advantageous for people to stay here," responded Udermann, adding that by 2019 there may be more local assessors leaving because they either didn't get their AMA certification or choose not to pursue it.

Linssen asked about the potential for the state to repeal the legislation requiring all CMAs get their AMA certification by 2019.

"There is a group that's going to (request) this law be extended, repealed, whatever, because they don't feel there's any way they can get this done by 2019," he said.

Regardless of what happens with the certification requirements, Commissioner Gene Metz said the county is behind.

"We have a deadline on us. People are going to be hard to find," he said. "I don't know what kind of creative resources we can find.

"My concern is that if we don't start stepping up now, in 2019 we're not going to be there," he added.

"It kind of brings us back to the budget," said Demuth. "We are kind of flying blind without a preliminary budget."

"We've got 20,000 constituents in the county, and you need to understand where we're at," Zylstra said. "Anytime you add staff, you just need to be really careful.

"I'm sure at some point we're going to have a work session, and I think that's where we iron this thing out," he added.

With that, the board voted to table the request until a preliminary budget is presented.

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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