County considers COVID-19's disruption to property tax payments
The Hubbard County Board plans to discuss the possibility that some residents may be unable to pay property taxes this spring due to temporary closures and layoffs from COVID-19.
“Our revenue might be considerably reduced. I know the state’s surplus has already been forecast down to zero. I think those same issues the state is having is going to be filtered down to the counties, so there needs to be discussion on how our response will be when there’s a shortfall of income,” said county commissioner Tom Krueger, suggesting the county might need to postpone new hires.
Hubbard County Auditor-Treasurer Kay Rave said the county’s reserves are close to 50 percent, “if we had to operate just on what we have in the bank. That’s going to be tight, but we could survive five to six months. I think if that situation arose, there would be a hiring and spending freeze.”
Escrow parcels make up approximately 17 percent of all parcels in the county, but the property tax revenue comprises 23 percent, of $6.8 million, for the whole year. Rave said the county will settle distribution to schools, townships and cities on time, so they will get their portion of the revenue.
“We also have $3 million in utility powerline parcels. We should see almost all of that by May 15. I don’t know why we wouldn’t get that money,” Rave said.
Rave said she has been “pleasantly surprised” by the tax payments being received by her department every day in the mail.
Board chair Char Christenson asked if the penalty and interest could be waived for businesses affected by COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Rave said that she has been looking for legislative guidance on this issue. “It’d be nice to know the state is unified on this and not just one response from one county.”
Krueger said deciding which business would get relief could be a subjective determination. “All businesses or what? Those are things that need to be talked about.”
“What about employees that have lost their jobs because of COVID?” Rave asked. “They should be considered as well. What really bothers me is that this does force us to make a judgement call. Per statute, we always try to treat all taxpayers the same.”
The discussion was placed on the board’s April 21 meeting agenda.
In other business, the board did as follows at their April 7 meeting:
Approved the purchase of a new forklift for the county solid waste department. The $29,977 quote was from Fargo-Moorhead Forklift Sales & Service, Inc. for Toyota Model 8FGU25, including $11,000 for a trade-in and $2,000 rebate.
Approved the low quote of $30,305.06 from MarcoNet for Bemidji for telephone systems upgrades, as recommended by the Hubbard County IT Director Robb Warne.
Approved the purchase of five eight-foot metal picnic tables for Heartland Park. The low quote of $4,423 was from Highland Products Group, LLC of Delray Beach, Fla.
Accepted the low quote of $1,944 from Bob’s Econo Pump of Bemidji to rent portable restroom facilities for public accesses and beaches at Stony Lake Beach, Fish Hook Lake, Garfield Lake and Long Lake.
Accepted the $1,600 quote from Thelen’s Excavating of Park Rapids to pump, fill and demolish a concrete tank at Long Lake’s south public access.
Approve $8,000 quote from CentralSquare Technologies of Chicago for CRS enhancement and services in the sheriff’s office.
Approve the $5,574 quote from Midwest Machinery of Wadena for a John Deere Z920M ZTrak Mower for the sheriff’s office. This includes a trade-in allowance for a 2016 mower. Sentence to Serve equipment donations will fund the purchase.
Approve amendment to medical services agreement with MEND Correctional Care, PLLC at the Hubbard County Jail. The change increased the number of hours of health care services per week.
Accepted a joint powers agreement between the State of Minnesota and Hubbard County for submission of crime statistics in the National Incident-Based Reporting System.
Apportioned 30 percent of net proceeds from the 2019 tax-forfeited sales fund to the county’s forest development account and 20 percent to the recreation account.
Approved a state grant application for Soaring Eagle Cross Country Ski Trails.