Let’s compare area property taxes

Tom West, West Words

I came across some information on property taxes the other day that readers may find of interest. An organization called Tax-rates.org has compiled all the local taxes by jurisdiction across the nation. In addition, the Office of the Minnesota State Auditor has published the budgets for each county, comparing 2011 to 2012, and that includes how property taxes are expected to change this year from last.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how Morrison County compares to the counties surrounding it. The table below does that.

The Median Property Tax means that half of the homes in the county pay higher taxes, and half pay lower.

The median value means half of the homes are worth more and half are worth less than that value.

The National Ranking is where the county ranks among the 3,145 counties in the United States for property taxes as a percentage of median income.  This is an indication of the affordability of the property tax bill. The higher the ranking, the lower the percentage of income that goes to property taxes.

Those first three come from Tax-rates.org. The last column comes from the Office of the State Auditor.

There’s a wide disparity across the state. Property taxes and the loss of state aid are expected to be a big issue in the coming legislative elections. Among the largest increases in property taxes that I saw were in Murray County (where Slayton is the county seat) with an increase of 25.6 percent and Big Stone County (county seat Ortonville) with an increase of 17.4 percent.

Other counties found a way to hold the line. McLeod County (county seat Glencoe) and Brown County (county seat New Ulm) both had zero percent increases, while Nicollet County (county seat St. Peter) had a 1 percent increase.

Federal grants also played a big role, with many counties seeing large increases, but others, like Morrison County, saw a big decrease. Morrison County’s 2012 budget showed a drop in federal grants of 48.7 percent over 2011. Even though it had the largest projected tax increase of the seven counties, the county’s projected income showed a decrease of 4.3 percent and total expenditures were expected to drop 3.6 percent.

Statewide, of the 84 counties surveyed (results from three were missing), 53 projected that their total revenue will increase for the year,  including five counties that anticipate revenue growth of 15 percent or more. Helped by an increase in federal grants of $9.1 million, Todd County led the way with an increase in total revenue of 42.8 percent.

Among the other 31, only 16 anticipate a greater decline in revenue than Morrison.

Talk to your county commissioner and, for that matter, your legislative and congressional candidates, if you like what you see — or even if you don’t.

***

If you were one of the lucky ones, you found yourself at Linden Hill last weekend for the touring production of Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

The first act was performed on the front lawn, the second act in the Musser Mansion, the third act in the back yard and the fourth back in the Musser Mansion.

The touring actors, who had the starring roles, were interspersed with some local talent. The play was comic and tragic, describing the foreclosure on an aristocrat’s mansion in czarist Russia a century ago.

An article about the production was in the Sunday StarTribune, explaining that Little Falls was one of a half dozen stops around the state. None could have had a more appropriate venue, however, than Linden Hill.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. He can be reached at 320-632-2345 or by e-mail at tom.west@mcrecord.com.

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