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County budget, levy estimates down slightly

County auditor/treasurer Paul Gassert expected to see a room full of upset taxpayers, based on the number of calls to both his office and the county assessor’s office over the past several weeks. Instead he got about six different parties — some were husband/wife property owners — and only three who spoke during Tuesday’s Carlton County Truth in Taxation Public hearing.

Gassert said most of the calls and the residents who spoke at the meeting were concerned about their own property tax assessment or classification. The time to discuss those concerns was last spring when the bright yellow preliminary tax assessments arrived in the mail.

Only resident Clarence Badger addressed the county’s budget and proposed tax levy — the purpose of Tuesday’s meeting — telling County Commissioners that they need to “tighten their belts.”

The preliminary levy to meet the 2017 proposed budget was set at a maximum of $25,769,278, or a 5.74 percent levy increase in September. Gassert said the Finance committee has gotten the levy increase down to 4.59 percent as of Tuesday.

The county board did not vote on the levy or budget Tuesday, rather commissioners will vote on the county’s final budget numbers and the tax levy at the regular 4 p.m. county board meeting Dec. 27 in the Transportation Building meeting room.

For most property owners in Carlton County, the county’s levy makes up at least half of their property taxes. A comparison of levy increases showed Carlton County’s increase at $1,398,341 verses a total of $239,015 for all the cities in Carlton County, $84,410 for all the combined townships in Carlton County and a reduction of $257,933 for the combined school districts.

Those taxes pay for roads and bridges, county health and human services offerings, the sheriff’s department, the county jail, county zoning, everything related to land, and more.

“There are lots of things we do that no one else does,” Gassert said, noting Cloquet and Moose Lake also have their own police, street and zoning departments.

Although it’s too late to argue the assessed value of a property for 2016 taxes payable in 2017, County Assessor Kyle Holmes said property owners who want to argue the county’s assessed value of their property can call his office and request the assessment be reviewed for the next year, for 2017 taxes payable in 2018.

Many Thomson Township/Esko and Scanlon residents likely saw a jump in their assessed value, and higher taxes, because the county assessor’s office reappraised every property there over the past year and a half. The county is nearly finished reappraising homes and businesses in the Cloquet area, Holmes said, noting that property owners in Cloquet will likely see more dramatic changes when they get their preliminary assessment next spring.

If a home or business owner disagrees with that assessment in the spring, the time to appeal that is at the local jurisdiction’s hearing in April. If they disagree with the ruling there, the property owner can go to the county board’s board of appeal and equalization meeting in June. They most attend the first meeting to go to the second one, he stressed.