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An Iron Ranger's View: Minnesota property taxpayers need an explanation, some relief

In 1993, the state of Minnesota adopted and enforced a property tax assessment limit law to help property owners avoid the tax impacts of sharp valuation increases on their homes and properties. The limit expired in 2009. Unfortunately, its absence has turned many Minnesota homeowners into sitting ducks.

It is my opinion that to stop property taxation that seems out of control, the state should adopt anew a property tax assessment limit.

According to the valuation notice sent to my house in Gilbert in April by the St. Louis County assessor, the estimated market value of our property is $23,200 higher than it was in 2017. Of course, the higher the assessed market value of our home and property, the higher the tax we pay on our house and land. This increase was made even though there have been no improvements to our house in the last 15 years — maintenance, yes; improvements, no.

When I called the assessor to find out why our estimated market value was raised so much, he said this: "2018 is a re-evaluation year. We're taking a close look at things previous assessors may have missed."

In order to find out the extent of the problem, I started talking with my neighbors about the 2018 estimated market values they received. I soon found that what I thought was a big jump in my 2018 estimated market value was small compared to my non-lakeshore and lakeshore neighbors. Several of my neighbors had estimated market value increases in the $50,000 range. Several of my neighbors had increases in the $75,000 range. Some of my neighbors had increases of $90,000 or more. Once again, these were added to the already-determined 2017 market values of the houses.

Were the previous tax assessors so inept they misjudged by $90,000 the market value of several homes?

It's clear we property owners now have no protection from the whims of whoever it is who decides it's time for a property tax increase. I wish the person — or group — who makes these decisions would explain the reasoning.

If by some chance the county does have nerve enough to give the public an explanation of the huge market value increases, I don't want to hear the convoluted story about my home going up in value because of the huge selling prices of other homes in my vicinity.

When property taxes go up so much and so quickly, a lot of 70-, 80-, and 90-year-old homeowners either can't pay the increase or have to sacrifice other things to pay the increase. Also, lots of young people with families have difficulty paying the property taxes generated by a huge increase in their home's estimated market value.

St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson, one of the finest men I have ever known, told me how he would solve the Iron Range property tax dilemma. He said he wants a "property tax freeze on the homes of people when they reach a certain age or when they retire."

Commissioner Nelson's tax-freeze idea is a good one. But having a state property tax assessment limit would be good for every homeowner.

Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, lifelong Iron Range resident, retired educator, and regular contributor to the News Tribune.