Don't ignore that property valuation notice in the mail
Over the next few weeks, property owners in St. Louis County will receive a property valuation notice from the assessor's office. We urge people to carefully read this notice, beyond simply the dollar amount at the bottom, because we often hear q...
Over the next few weeks, property owners in St. Louis County will receive a property valuation notice from the assessor's office. We urge people to carefully read this notice, beyond simply the dollar amount at the bottom, because we often hear questions about what it really says.
First, it tells how a property is classified, such as residential homestead, non-homestead, commercial or agricultural. Different types of properties are taxed at different rates, so the classification - the determination of how a property is primarily used - is an important detail.
Second, the valuation notice lists the estimated market value. This amount is what we believe your property would sell for if you placed it on the market. Our assessors must physically visit a property every five years. We also must visit any parcel with new construction, alterations or improvements. During interim years, adjustments may be made based on real estate transactions involving comparable nearby properties.
Next, it lists a variety of possible exclusions that reduce the amount on which your property taxes are based. Once those exclusions are subtracted out, the resulting figure is the taxable market value. This is the amount that will later be factored into the complex formula that ultimately determines your property taxes for 2016.
If the property information is incorrect, you disagree with the values or have questions about the notice, please contact us. If we do not resolve your concerns to your satisfaction, more formal appeal options are listed on your notice. It's very important for property owners to contact us with any questions or concerns because by the time the next notice, the proposed tax statement, arrives in November, the appeal period has passed.
What the valuation notice does not tell you is how much property tax you will pay in 2016. The assessor's office does not set tax rates, nor do we collect taxes. Even if your property's value changes, it doesn't necessarily mean a change in your property taxes.
Our assessors talk with concerned property owners every day. While our office isn't in the position to offer tax help, we do try to direct people to resources where they may get help.
The Homestead Credit Refund is a state-paid refund aimed at assisting homeowners whose property taxes are high compared to their household income or whose property tax increased more than 12 percent. This credit can reduce a homeowner's property tax amount, yet many homeowners don't realize they're eligible and so don't take advantage of it. More information is on the Minnesota Department of Revenue's website at revenue.state.mn.us or by calling (800) 652-9094.
Other special programs are in place that may reduce the property tax bill for veterans, senior citizens, victims of natural disaster and more. We include information on these and other programs on our county website, stlouiscountymn.gov/assessor.
For property owners who have fallen behind in paying their property taxes, LSS Financial Counseling is a great resource. As part of Lutheran Social Services, they offer budget and debt counseling to anyone, regardless of religious beliefs; and their services are free and confidential. LSS counselors can help set up a realistic budget and develop a repayment plan for property taxes and any other debts a person may have. They can be reached at (218) 726-4767.
Lastly, the best advice for anyone with questions or concerns about the accuracy or fairness of their assessment is call the assessor's office at (218) 726-2304. Our staff can review your parcel records, local sales activity and general market trends. You can also compare your assessment with those of other nearby properties.
Our goal is to be fair to everyone. By assessing each property equally and uniformly, we ensure that property owners pay only their fair share and nothing more.
Dave Sipila is the St. Louis County assessor.