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Letter: Townships can benefit financially from public land

By Dennis Frederickson, Regional Director, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, New Ulm I would like the opportunity to respond to the Daily Globe's Feb. 28 article, "State-owned lands cause concern in Bloom Township." The article quotes Bl...

By Dennis Frederickson, Regional Director, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, New Ulm

I would like the opportunity to respond to the Daily Globe’s Feb. 28 article, “State-owned lands cause concern in Bloom Township.”

The article quotes Bloom Township supervisor Jim Joens having concerns about lost property tax revenue because of state-owned lands. While Joens’ concerns are understandable, I’d like to correct some misconceptions in the article and show, in fact, how local governments benefit financially from public land.

The 1,000 acres the Minnesota DNR owns makes up just 5 percent of Bloom Township’s 22,990 acres, not 10 percent as stated in the article. The article also asserts that the amount of money state government pays to local governments to offset taxes for public land, known as Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), will amount to 53 cents per acre. That is not accurate. Let me explain:

The State PILT rate in Nobles County for lands purchased from private parties is three-quarters of 1 percent of appraised value. If the land purchased from a private party is part of a state Wildlife Management Area, state law requires the county to allocate the payment amount the county, town, and school district on the same basis as if the payment were a tax on the land.  

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For instance, according to tax records from the Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer office, the recently-acquired 640 acres for Swessinger Wildlife Management Area, when it was last held privately by Ducks Unlimited, had an estimated market value of $3,431,500. The 2016 property tax bill for the 640 acres was $17,026. Of that, Bloom Township received $3,044.77 - or 17.9 percent. The year 2018 will be the first in which the property will be subject to PILT payments from the state.

Assuming the county reported the same $3,431,500 estimated market value to the state for PILT, the county will receive $25,736.25 in PILT for the property. If the township’s share remains at 17.9 percent, Bloom Township should receive $4,606.79 from the PILT payment, more than its original payment when it was held privately.  

The article also asserts that the DNR is not maintaining its property. Keep in mind that the section of Jack Creek mentioned in the article is one of the few remaining natural stretches of waterways left in Nobles County. In this context, a downed tree isn’t a bad thing - it means habitat for turtles and birds. The photo displayed on dglobe.com nicely illustrates how plant life creates habitat for wood ducks. That plant life stabilizes the creek’s bank, improving water quality. Its floodplain also helps improve water quality.

Thank you for allowing me to present the positives of public land.

 

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