Residents quiz board on taxes

It happens every year.

County residents come to the first Mille Lacs County Board meeting in December expecting to complain or comment on their taxes.

But the meeting, held Tuesday, Dec. 11, is actually the time for a presentation of the county’s proposed budget and levy for the following year.

This year there were more than 20 residents in attendance and while some didn’t take a chance to air their grievances, others did.

And those who did attend went home with a better idea of what commissioners have to contend with in setting the budget and levy.

County Administrator Roxy Traxler went through the proposed budget and levy for 2013, noting that, once again, the county is not increasing its budget.

That marked the second time in three years that the levy was not increased, there being a decrease of a half percent in 2012. There was also a decrease in 2010 of .68 percent.

Questions followed the presentation by Traxler,

Phillip Eggen, Milaca, asked if it was true that the levy was about $14 million and the budget about $30 million.

Told that it was, Eggen asked about spending for various programs.

Traxler provided those figures. For example, spending on public safety (sheriff’s department) is budgeted at $7.2 million, road and bridge at $7 million and the Community and Veterans Service Department at $8.75 million.

LeRoy Koppendrayer, Princeton, asked about the budgets for the past three years, as well as about the state’s portion of funds for the budget.

It was noted that some properties in the county increased in value, while others decreased. Many commercial and farm properties increased in value.

County Assessor Pat Stotz answered a question by saying the county’s tax capacity has been diminished from 6 to 8 percent because of changes in valuations.

A woman who moved to Milaca recently asked why her townhouse taxes were up 26.5 percent while a neighbor in the same kind of townhouse saw only a 4 percent increase.

“What am I getting for that?” she asked.

“You’re not getting more for your money,” answered Commissioner Phil Peterson. He noted that the state has shifted the tax burden.

The townhouse resident was referred to assessor Stotz, as were others who asked specifically about tax statements.

For the full story, see the Thursday, Dec. 13 print edition of the Times.