Businesses to lawmakers: Lower our taxes

Nearly 50 Princeton area business owners expressed property-tax discontent to State Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, and State Sen. Dave Brown, R-Becker, during a meeting organized by the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce in Princeton on Monday.

The meeting was conducted at the Northern Attitudes Bar & Grill, where owner Carol Dalske was one of the many business people who expressed frustration about their property taxes jumping significantly in 2012.

Others saying the same included Joe Glenn, owner of Glenn Metalcraft; Scott Berry, a local attorney and president of the chamber; Jeremy Riddle, owner of Northwoods Animal Hospital and mayor of the city of Princeton and Mike Haehn who has ownership in ACE Hardware and at least one other local enterprise. Berry said it is difficult to get businesses to fill the downtown’s spots if the taxes are too challenging.

Also contributing to the discussion were Princeton City Council members Dick Dobson, Thom Walker and Victoria Hallin, and Mille Lacs County Commissioners Jack Edmonds and Dan Whitcomb. Hallin said that if the Legislature had not put in place the market value exclusion for homes below the $413,800 value, the situation wouldn’t likely be as bad as it is now for so many businesses and industries.

Walker suggested that one avenue for owners of businesses in Mille Lacs County who are frustrated over the new property tax structure is to bring the message to state officials via the board of review meetings. Those are the meetings where property owners can complain about their assessments. There just might be a chance that a property owner could start with the April 5 board of review meeting in Princeton city hall and keep appealing any decision there on up through the county level to the state, he said.

Glenn, however, said he did not have an issue with the property assessment on his Glenn Metalcraft buildings, just with the resulting property taxes.

Glenn had built a new 30,000 sq. ft. building, with an additional 6,000 sq. ft. of outside storage and the property taxes payable this year on that are $72,000. Adding that to the $38,000 property tax on his original plant, makes for a $110,000 property tax bill this year.

The amount of property taxes weigh into a business owner’s decisions when it comes time to consider expansion or where to have their business, Glenn said. Glenn Metalcraft is in the city’s main industrial park, which is in Sherburne County.

Dalske’s property tax situation at Northern Attitudes is that the taxes on her property rose 12.1 percent last year and 11.7 percent this year. Dalske noted the assessed valuation stayed the same in 2011 and dropped by $5,600 this year.

Business owner Haehn presented an ominous scenario of property taxes for businesses eventually becoming so unbearable that the business scene could collapse like the housing market did. Council member Walker added that even banks may get to where they wouldn’t want to keep those businesses if the owners couldn’t continue paying the business mortgages. Then they could be taken back by the county as a tax default, he said.

Mille Lacs Commissioner Whitcomb quipped that the county wouldn’t get such properties until after seven years of taxes not being paid.

Whitcomb also took issue with a statement by Erickson that counties had pushed for the change that was made in the property tax structure. Princeton city resident Leana Linder also spoke about the property taxes, as well as utility costs for people living in the city. Between the electric, sewer and water rates and property taxes it is too expensive to live in the city, said Linder. She added that all levels of government waste too much.

That was part of the message from Jon George, co-owner of the downtown’s Princeton Mall and Marv’s True Value, located just over the city boundary in Baldwin Township in Sherburne County.

When Erickson called on George to give his thoughts, he noted that the taxes on the mall this year rose 10.3 percent and the taxes on the store went up 10.4 percent. “I think the whole thing starts with what is being spent in St. Paul,” George said, referring to the state government. He added that it also holds true for governments at the city and county level.