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Enbridge seeks huge payback on taxes

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. — Oil pipeline company Enbridge Inc. has filed a petition with the Minnesota Tax Court in an attempt to reduce their Hubbard County property taxes by $336,892 for the past three years.

Polk and Clearwater counties face similar tax court decisions.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company has a pipeline running through the counties and is planning to gain approval for an expanded line along the same route. Enbridge primarily transports energy in North America.

In Hubbard County, three parcels in Farden and Helga townships have been named in the Enbridge petition.

The payback would affect all government entities  in each of the counties — schools, cities, townships, counties — which rely on property tax revenue.

“This is a worst case scenario,” county assessor Ginger Woodrum told Hubbard County commissioners this week. “It’s an Enbridge estimate, not the Department of Revenue’s.”  

Clearwater County could face paybacks more than $1 million. The company has asked for refunds of $338,000 from 2013, $952,000 in 2014 and additional amounts in subsequent years, according to a county board resolution expressing “significant concerns with its ability under existing law to manage refunds that may result” from a valuation reduction by the tax court.

As for Polk County, in a letter to Hubbard County Board Chair Dan Stacey on the issue, Polk County administrator Chuck Whiting stated the court’s ruling could easily exceed $100,000 per year for their county.

“Tax court decisions are beyond the scope of county control and can require local units of government to refund to utilities collected property taxes in amounts that may not only cause fiscal hardship to these units of government, but can come in significant amounts relative to the overall levy,” Whiting said.

“We have no say,” Hubbard County attorney Don Dearstyne agreed. “This should be a legislative fix.”

“This puts a lot of stress on counties,” Hubbard County Commissioner Matt Dotta said.