Carlton County residents have tax statement 'sticker shock'
Residents raised concerns with the Carlton County Board of Commissioners during the truth in taxation meeting about the rise in property taxes.
CARLTON — Carlton County residents said they felt sticker shock when opening up their tax statements in November.
Several residents took the opportunity to address the board and county officials during the county board's truth in taxation hearing Tuesday, Dec. 14.
The residents said their taxes have risen by over 20% for 2023, and for some that could price them out of their homes.
Bob Wait, of Scanlon, said he has been retired for 12 years and is living on a fixed income, making the increases harder for him each year.
He will pay his taxes, but he said if they keep going up, he won't be able to stay in his home. Wait said he is not alone for his situation and there are others who would have to move if their taxes keep rising.
"For being 75 years old, fixed income, you are actually running me out of my house," he said.
The biggest increase on Wait's tax statement was from the school district, he said.
Marty Hill, of Cloquet, said he had a 26% increase on his tax statement, which was a good reason for him to study it for the first time.
Hill said he spoke with school representatives who told him the county does not have a lot of commercial property tax revenue coming in.
"Something like that can offset residential property tax," he said.
County coordinator Dennis Genereau said the county’s proximity to Duluth makes it hard to attract big box stores.
Genereau added the economic development department has representatives from around the county and is meeting in January for its strategic planning to talk about these issues.
County Auditor Kevin DeVriendt said the county’s tax levy increase for the year is slated at 6.9%, and that a lot of the increases around the county are seen not only from the county budget but with school districts and special taxing districts.
For example, the levy increases for the city of Moose Lake and Silver Brook Township are 20.3% and 13.4% respectively.
The changes with the Cloquet Area Fire District's cost allocation between its fire and ambulance services has also seen a 117% increase to its ambulance levy, according to the county's 2023 proposed levy survey.
The county's increase was made up of staff wage increases, additional positions and a increase to debt payments.
Kyle Holmes, the county assessor, provided some insight as to why home valuations increased and what residents can do to receive a property tax refund.
Home valuations increased across the county, a trend not unique to Carlton County, because they have been selling at higher valuations, Holmes said. However, he said there isn't a direct correlation between increased valuations and increased taxes.
On average only 46% of eligible residents file for property tax refunds and the average refund is at $808 per filer for the county, Holmes said.
He added that the eligibility requirements have also changed to now be an average household income of less than $119,000 to qualify.
"That could really do good work for people in our area," he said.
While the board did not take any action during the meeting, Board Chair Gary Peterson thanked everyone for speaking and asked the county finance committee to give one final look at the budget.
"I'd like to have the finance committee ... review any position requests for 2023, just to really vet them out," he said. "If there is a new position being requested do we really actually need to do that?"
The board is scheduled to approve its final 2023 budget and tax levy on Dec. 27.