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Lanesboro council holds Board of Equalization hearing


Fri, Apr 18th, 2008
Posted in Government

A few residents of Lanesboro came before the council at their regular meeting on April 14 to voice some concerns during the Board of Equalization Public Hearing. Ron Vikre of the County Assessor's office was present to answer questions about property values and assessments.

Don Wangen had a question about his property, which has two buildings on one lot. One is his main home that he lives in, and the other is his shop, which has an apartment upstairs that he rents out. His concern was that his tax statement seems to show the property was split into two lots. City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman explained that it is still only one lot, with two different types of property on it.

Wangen was also concerned about how high his taxes have gone in comparison with how much money he has into the property. He explained how years ago he put in the road to the property, as well as his own sewer line. According to Wangen, his property was assessed at $114,500, although he only spent $28,000 in building it.

Vikre said that the main house was assessed as a homestead, and the other non-homestead due to the rental apartment. He also described the way property values are determined based on the square footage when there is an odd-shaped lot.

Rich Horihan was also present with concerns about how high the value of his commercial property has gone in the past year. Horihan owns the grain elevator in Lanesboro and recently added a new grain bin to the property. He asked Vikre if adding on to the property added the same amount to the value of it, dollar for dollar. Vikre said that it does not always go dollar for dollar, as they always have to go back to the market. The assessors compare properties with how similar properties are selling in the area to get an idea of its value.

Horihan was concerned that other businesses in town with the same value pay the same taxes that he does. Vikre and Vickerman did not have tax numbers, but they had a listing of values of properties in town.

"When my taxes go up 78 percent in one year, it doesn't make me want to continue doing business," said Horihan. "If you were to tax everyone on an equal basis, I would go along with it."

Council member Tom Dybing explained how commercial properties are assessed. The first $150,000 of value is taxed at 1.5 percent, and after that it's two percent. That number is the tax capacity. Property taxes are determined by the city's levy amount and the tax capacity of the property.

Vikre said that while it's certainly not perfect, the purpose is to divide the total levy among the taxpayers in town. He encouraged Horihan to see him another time to discuss this further and compare his property with other businesses in town.

Tourism Grant

Andy Bunge, representing the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce, made a request to the city for a donation of $500. Bunge explained that the Minnesota Tourism Office is offering cities in Southeast Minnesota a one-time Crisis Grant to help promote the area and make up for some of the losses due to the flooding in Rushford last summer. According to Bunge, for every 60 cents the city raises, the state will match 40 cents. The Chamber had set a goal of $2,000, and they have put in $500. They will later be requesting $500 each from the fire department and the VFW. Historical Bluff Country will be the fiscal agent for the grant.

Bunge shared that his Bed and Breakfast alone lost $4,500 due to the flood. Many other people lost money as well due to trails closing. Bunge shared some of the goals of neighboring communities, and not all of them were the same. There were 22 communities and five counties approached with this opportunity.

Council member Vince Jeannette expressed concerns over the fact that there was some miscommunication after the flood that could have prevented some of the losses. He referred to rumors and articles at the time declaring that Lanesboro was shut down, which was not true. He felt that the problem was not taken care of as quickly as it should have been. He also felt that everyone should have the same goal, and wondered why Lanesboro's was higher than some others.

Mayor Steve Rahn also mentioned that some people would have a problem with the term "grant," and that he was one of them. Jeannette agreed.

"We felt this would challenge us locally," said Bunge. "It would bring in some outside money that hopefully would pay off our dividends. We are trying to keep the tourism and other businesses in town. We have to remember that we are all in this together."

Vickerman said if the city wished to only donate $250, they could also ask for $250 from Public Utilities. The council approved, with Jeannette voting against it.

Capital Improvements

The council passed a resolution to assess the Whittier Street project at 25 percent and the Maple Drive project at 100 percent as recommended by Mike Bubany at the last meeting. The public hearing will be held on April 28.

Gerry Evenson from Public Utilities had a suggestion for the council about paying for future projects. His idea was that when the current bonds are paid off in 2013, the city continues the levy as it was, so that some cash will be built up in reserve and set aside for capital improvements in the future. This would prevent them from having to use expensive bonding for financing their projects.

Rahn stated the problem he had with that was asking people who live here now to pay for something that might happen later. Vickerman said Public Utilities has some money in reserve, as does the city.

Software

The council approved the purchase of new software from Banyon Data Systems, Inc. Vickerman said Public Utilities was going to pay the majority of the total cost of $11,897.50, since they were going to benefit from it the most. What was left for the city to pay was $4,552.50. Evenson asked if Public Utilities could pay the total cost up front and have the city pay back their share and Vickerman agreed.

Vickerman believed the purchase was going to pay off well for the city, as they will be using the software extensively for billing and other things.

Other business

The council approved the following:

• A land detachment request for two acres that have no city services

• the Turkey Federation gambling license

• Rushford Ambulance Mutual Aid agreement

• A worker's compensation renewal

• A Public Utilities Public Hearing will be held on Monday, May 5.

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