Board of Review: All’s quiet in Milles Lacs part of city

Mille Lacs County Assessor Pat Stotz and appraisers Dave Vigdal and Bob Heinrich had a fairly quiet time at the annual board of review meeting on May 3 in Princeton.

A board of review is conducted in each governmental jurisdiction each year to allow property owners to question the assessed valuations on their property for tax purposes.

The assessor makes recommendations at these meetings and an elected board, in this case the Princeton City Council, takes action. The action can include changing an assessment or leaving it as is. If the property owner does not like the decision, they can appeal it to the county board, and if not satisfied there, could take it to court.

Most of the city of Princeton is in Mille Lacs County, with a small portion on the city’s south end in Sherburne. When the Sherburne assessor’s office had its board of review in city hall earlier this spring, it was even quieter than the Mille Lacs County one for the city.

Here is what the city council, with Stotz’s recommendations, did at the May 3 board of review:

• It did not make any changes on the assessed valuation for Pat Fitzpatrick’s two lots. The one lot is home to Wholesale Motors and is along Rum River Drive North across from the Northern Attitudes Bar and Grill and the other lot is in back of the Wholesale Motors lot. The board of review decided to keep the $39,700 assessment on the car lot as recorded and also keep the $18,800 assessment on the back lot. Stotz told Fitzpatrick that if those two lots were combined into one lot, the total assessment would be only $43,000, compared to the current total of $58,500.

Fitzpatrick was not sure if he wanted to combine the lots, explaining that he might want to use the back lot later for personal use. He talked about wanting to put a garage on that lot but Princeton Development Director/Zoning Administrator Carie Fuhrman said that city ordinance prohibits having just an accessory building, including a garage, on a lot. The ordinance, according to Fuhrman, prohibits any accessory building or structure being put on a lot prior to constructing a principal building that the accessory building will be accessory to.

Stotz recommended not reducing the assessment on Fitzpatrick’s lot behind Wholesale Motors, explaining that this back lot is 12,540 sq. ft., and thus much larger than the typical city lot of 9,000 to 9,200 sq. ft.

• The board reduced the $73,400 assessment on a single-family home rental at 1701 First St. by $6,700 to make it $66,700. Stotz recommended this because her office downgraded the condition of the house from normal to fair.

• The board approved a temporary reduction for the bank-owned, vacant store space at 507 First St. that formerly housed a pet store that has since moved to a different spot in the downtown. The original assessment was $146,700 and the new assessment will be $66,700 until major repairs are made, including repairs to a leaking roof and “spongy floor,” Stotz said.

The Mille Lacs County Assessor’s office lowered the assessment schedule for residential and commercial land in the county’s portion of the city for taxes payable next year, according to Stotz. She explained that the residential land schedule is reduced by 25 cents per sq. ft. and the commercial land schedule by 50 cents per sq. ft.

The market valuation assessment process works this way: To get this year’s assessment, the assessor’s office worked on appraisals and property studies from Oct. 1, 2010, to September 2011. The assessments that property owners received this year, will be used in the formula for next year’s property taxes.

As far as the relatively few complaints this year about the county’s property assessments in the city of Princeton, that seems to be the case heard generally across the state, Stotz said.

Asked to comment on how market valuations are in her jurisdiction in light of the record foreclosures starting a few years ago, Stotz answered, “Things are still dropping,” and there are still a lot of foreclosures going on.

Housing market analysts have pointed to government regulations and problems in the foreclosure process having created a backlog of foreclosures that will now start coming through.