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Assessor addresses Akeley property tax rate

Akeley lakeshore property owners, arriving at recent meetings to question their "disproportionate amount of property taxes," drew the city assessor to clarify the issue at this month's meeting.

"My job is to classify and value," assessor David Johnson said of a suggestion that those with a dispute should come to Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting. "I don't do taxes. The Legislature decides who pays what."

Taxes, he explained, are not directly related to value. "Small towns are battling to make ends meet.

"Akeley's 161 percent total tax capacity rate is the highest in the county, because values are so low," he said.

There is not a township in the county with a total tax capacity rate of more than 100, he said. Akeley Township's is 58 percent.

He presented a comparison of 2012 property taxes between Akeley City and Akeley Township showing a "substantial difference" between the two.

An Akeley City property, for example with a residential homestead classification and an estimated market value of $71,392 pays a net tax of $675. A property with the same classification valued at $70,814 in Akeley Township pays $256, a 264 percent difference.

An Akeley resident with property valued at $155,658 owes $2,084 while a $156,305 property owner in the township is taxed $792, a 263 percent difference.

The percentages are similar for seasonal recreational residences. But an agricultural homestead owner in Akeley pays 428 percent higher taxes than in the township.

A $141,000 agriculture homestead owner in Akeley is responsible for $1,438 in property taxes, while an owner of a $140,395 property in the township pays $336.

The examples are subject to the same county, school district, Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Headwaters Regional Development Commission levies. "They only differ with respect to which city/township levy they are subject to," Johnson said.

"You are paying for services," Johnson explained of the city's 161 percent tax capacity rate compared with the township's 58 percent TCR.

"The tax base is low (in the city)," he said. "But you still need the money."

The city saw a 30 percent total TCR increase from 2011 to 2012, while the township sustained a 13 percent increase in the same period.

"This looks like organized confusion for the taxpayer," an Akeley resident remarked.

In other action, the council:

• Swore in Trygve Karl as the newly appointed council person.

• Approved a 10 percent increase in the amount paid Eastern Hubbard County Fire District at Jennifer Mitchell's recommendation, with Brian Hitchcock voting in opposition.

The city paid $17,000 this year and will ostensibly pay $18,700 next year, with the increase.

Hitchcock said EHCFD financial reports show the increase is not necessary.

The entities served by the department (Akeley City and Akeley, Badoura and White Oak townships) pay on a 60-40 basis. Sixty percent of the department's budget is assessed according to population, 40 percent assessed equally among the four townships.

Last year - before Hitchcock reported the amount being charged for coverage by the EHCFD did not correspond with agreed upon formulas - the city paid $21,000.

Badoura Township voted in opposition at Tuesday night's annual meeting but the remaining entities voted in favor of the increase.

• Learned the Akeley Regional Community Center is in need of volunteers, Larry Holm asking "Akeley folks to get on board for your city."

While the ARCC has made strides in renovations and providing services, inspections due to complaints have negated some progress.

• Approved First National Bank of Walker as the low bidder at 1.686 percent for $196,000 in general obligation water revenue bonds, at a net interest cost of $18,169.

Citizens National Bank of Park Rapids offered a 4.258 percent rate, at a net interest cost of $45,894.

The city received grants of $245,000 for the water system upgrade project completed last summer.

• After conferring with the League of Minnesota Cities, the council agreed to accept the $100 per acre irrigation cropland bid from Larry Buck for the 35-acre parcel.

• Approved $1,500 be spent for tree removal at the cemetery, the funds to be realized from the Community Fund.

• Agreed to donate $500 from the Community Fund for the ARCC Library for children's programs, a percentage of heating costs and books.