May 15th is Property Tax Day

Sunday, May 15th the first half of your 2011 property taxes are due.

On Sunday the first half of your 2011 property taxes are due.  In most counties you can go on the county web site and pay your taxes online to avoid penalties. 

For most of us, as we write out checks, it is a time to reflect on this investment in our communities; in the children we see around town, in the clean water and parks, in the orderly well-maintained streets and public buildings,  in the infrastructure and the services; the plowed roads and emergency vehicles that save lives. 

At its best, tax day is a good time to feel proud of our state and community.  Most us are more than willing to pay our fair share.  We are civic minded and generous.  

But tax time can also be a time of fear that skyrocketing taxes may may make our property unaffordable; or anger and confusion as we try to justify the increasing assessments and taxes with this down market.  Property taxes in this economy should be declining not increasing.  When we question our assessments or levies, some of us have found that assessors, local board of appeals and bureaucrats are unresponsive, unappolegetic and unaccountable.

Many, particularly lakeshore owners,  feel that we are paying more than our fair share, that after enduring years of property tax increases due to a bubble market any further increases in assessed value are unjustified.  We recognize that this ever increasing property tax pressure is forcing the wholesale subdivision and fragmentation of sensitive shoreline areas and forest habitats.

While most have seen assessed values decline in recent years, there are areas of the state where assessors are still pushing values up.  Way up.

One property owner on Burntside Lake wrote to their local board of appeal:

I question and protest the 2011 Increased Property Valuation and as well as the Increased Tax Rate for the above property.
Please consider that the 2011 Valuation ($642,300) over the 2010 Valuation ($516,100) is a 24.45% increase.  The average increase over the last ten years is 13.83% per year.
Please also consider that the 2011 Total Taxes ($6,317.04) over the 2010 Total Taxes ($4,388.60) is a 43.9% increase.  The average increase over the last ten years is 10.93% per year.   

Of the 2011 taxes is included a $1,264.26 tax (up 285%) that has no description other than "Other local levies".  What local government "cost" increase justifies this tax increase?

This owner paid for an independent certified property tax appraisal and included it in his appeal. This independent appraiser used nine recent sales in the area, as well as a physical inspection of the property and a host of other factors and placed the property's value at $475.000, or $167,302 below the tax assessment..  

The local board denied the owner's request for an assessment reduction, writing simply, and without providing any proof, "The Burntside sales in your appraisal support the assessed value." A number of people in that area got together, and sent letters out to elected officials at the state and county level. 

One owner wrote, "I just received a $4,600.08 increase. That's up 43%."  Another owner noted, "our taxes are up almost $800 this year over last year, 21%. School taxes were up 80% over last year for us."

MSRPO raised the Burntside lake and other anomalies with the state assessors association and legislators at the capitol.

Already, due no doubt to grass roots activism like this, Saint Louis County has taken action.

Saint Louis County Appoints Blue Ribbon Property Tax Panel 

On May 10th, the county board charged the committee with developing a property tax assessment system that is "timely, uniform and fair." The panel, comprised of business leaders, mayors, appraisers and others, is charged with creating a five-year plan to streamline and increase uniformity of the assessment process in Minnesota's largest county.... (more)

Rising property tax assessments are a problem in many parts of the country.  A market has sprung up to address the problem. Minnesota should take action to make the assessment process more fair, more transparent, more responsive, and more accountable.  When citizens question the assessed value of their property, they have almost no recourse.

Minnesota's State and Local Fiscal System is Broken

With just two weeks until the end of the session, there has been total lack of concrete structural solutions being offered with regard to tax reform.  Perhaps if the people lead, the leaders will follow. In conjunction with the 501c3 Sensible Tax and Fiscal Systems, MSRPO is promoting a plan to overhaul Minnesota's state and local fiscal system.  

So as you pay your property taxes, take a moment, reflect on the good that your taxes do in your local community. But if you feel that your assessment has been raised unfairly, or that you are being targeted for an increase, go to, make a copy of your tax bill, and send it along to the elected officials where you live and vote.  Right now decisions legislators and the governor are making decisions in Saint Paul that will affect your property tax bill next year.
MSRPO is your voice at the capitol - please take a moment and join MSRPO.

Keep in touch,
Jeff Forester

N.Y. / REGION    | May 10, 2011 
Westchester Towns Take Hit From Rise in Tax Appeals 
Local governments are being overwhelmed by property tax challenges, driven by companies that appeal homeowners' tax bills in exchange for a share of the savings. 

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