Fillmore County Assessor Jason McCaslin addressed the city council and the public at the April 19 meeting. He made it clear that it is his objective and required by state statute to have each property owner liable for his/her fair share of the tax burden, no more/no less. Councilman David Collett was absent.
McCaslin gave an overview of property values and adjustments being made to achieve fairness. His office is required to maintain the median sale ratio between 90-105% in jurisdictions with six or more sales. If the state finds a jurisdiction to be out of compliance, the State Board of Equalization will order changes to make that jurisdiction compliant.
The Preston jurisdiction will have an overall change in residential value of about 6.86%. Appraisers will need access to properties to get qualitative measurements on each property. McCaslin recognizes there has been an inconsistent appraisal activity on lower valued homes.
A five-year small sample report on Preston commercial/industrial properties illustrated a consistent trend of sales stronger than Estimated Market Values. A 25% increase was applied to commercial property in Preston. McCaslin said commercial property needs to be reassessed countywide.
The total value of all property in Preston was up 12.76% over 2020, or a total valuation of $98,409,800 compared to $87,270,100. This is an increase of $11,139,700. Much of this increase is due to the increase in commercial property values.
During the public hearing Bob and Sheila Gossman questioned why their valuation notice was up over 92%. This was on three parcels including about four acres. McCaslin said there was a blanket increase on land values based on the land’s highest and best use. Actions were applied consistently across the board. City Administrator Joe Hoffman noted two of the lots do not have sewer and water. McCaslin offered to give them an estimate later this week on what the valuation increase may mean for their taxes. Hoffman said with the city’s required setbacks there is limited buildable space on the two lots.
Fred O’Connor said his valuation had increased by more than three times. McCaslin asked the city council to vote no change on this parcel. He wanted to have time to look at more sales, appraise property and determine value, and then O’Connor could take his appeal to the County Board of Appeal and Equalization in June.
McCaslin asked the city council to approve the reduced valuation on a commercial building on the north end of Preston near the intersection of Highway 16 and 52. He said the property had been assessed appropriately before the citywide increase was applied. The reduction in market value from $535,100 to $393,100 was approved.
McCaslin asked that the market value of two parcels owned by the same property owner be reduced due to the fact that they are not buildable lots. An increase had been applied with the blanket increase in land values. Considerable work would be needed to make them buildable lots. The reductions were approved as requested.
Other business in brief
•Police Chief Sass recommended the promotion of Patrol Officer Tim Melver to sergeant. Melver has worked with the department since 2011 and has been full-time since 2015. Hoffman stated, “Tim has proven himself.” The promotion was approved as requested.
•The council authorized Hoffman to get some quotes for a City/Utility Compensation Study. The last study was completed in 2003 and is outdated. The cost of the study will be split between the city and the utility. The update will help with a pay equity report that is due January 2022.
•Minnesota Energy Resources (MERC) plans to replace the Distribution Regulation Stations (DRS) near the fire hall and the power plant. DRS stations regulate high-pressure gas down to the pressure that can be used in a home. Staff has reluctantly recommended that the new DRS go into the boulevard on the west side of the fire hall. The new DRS are much larger than the old ones and this seems to be the most suitable location. The location on the west side of the fire hall was approved.
•A resolution will be added to the consent agenda of the May 3 meeting authorizing the refinancing of non-profit bonds for Madonna/Benedictine Health Senior Living project in Rochester. The city had loaned out a portion of the city’s bonding authority for the project along with five other cities. There was no risk for the city. The city had received an up front payment of $20,000 to loan out a portion of its bonding authority. When the bonds are refinanced the city of Preston’s involvement will end.
•An updated contract with J & M Displays, along with a fireworks permit for 2021, was approved. The 2019 show was postponed due to rain and the 2020 show was canceled due to COVID. For 2021, the city will have a show valued at $8,000 with no payment due. The fireworks display will be held on the Welch property off the end of Overlook Dr. during Trout Days on May 15.
•The Arbor Day Proclamation was ratified. Arbor Day is April 30. Preston has had the Tree City designation for 36 years.
•The Fire Relief Association will be holding the ATV raffle at the Servicemen’s Club on September 18.
•The city council will next meet on May 3 and later in the month on May 17.