According to a statewide audit of 2018 town finances shows, some local governments in the area posted net losses in the hundreds of thousands.

Overall, Hubbard County townships saw a total net loss of $394,671 during the 2018 fiscal year. Posting the biggest net loss (where total expenses surpassed total revenues) was Lake Emma Twp. at $359,623, followed by Helga at $257,297, Farden at $216,599 and White Oak at $136,088.

Sometimes the disparity flipped the other way. Townships with a six-figure net income (revenues minus expenses) were Arago at $152,858 and Crow Wing Lake at $102,096. The local township that came closest to spending all its revenues without going over was Savannah Township, with a net income of just $717.

The office of State Auditor Julie Blaha released their 2018 township finance reports on Nov. 22. Blaha said the data will be analyzed further when the city and county financial reports are issued early in 2020.

Town leaders respond

Asked to comment on Arago Township’s six-digit net income in 2018, town treasurer Cecelia Michaels noted, “We have some really key people on our board. We are all professionals, and I think sometimes that helps. … We have a really good rapport.”

Besides a bank president and two local business owners, the town board includes an older gentleman who “has a lot of really good information,” Michaels said. “He’s been there so long that he’s been like our history.”

In addition, she said, “We’re just very cautious with our money. We are always talking to anybody – even the guy that does all of our road work. We question every invoice he has. So, I think we’re just diligent in what we do.”

Meantime, Lake Emma town treasurer Jeff Adolfson explained that his township’s 2018 net loss of almost $360,000 was actually a planned investment in an infrastructure project that was contracted out that year.

“It was resurfacing Grouse Road,” he said – “part of the Capital Improvement Plan.”

Helga and Farden town treasurers declined to comment. White Oak and Crow Wing Lake town treasurers could not be reached for comment by press time.

Across Minnesota

Statewide, the release noted, Minnesota towns reported:

  • Revenues totaled $317.3 million in 2018, a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017. During the 10 years from 2009 to 2018, inflation-adjusted town revenues increased 1.6 percent.

  • The share of total revenues derived from taxes increased from 70.4 percent in 2009 to 73.8 percent in 2018. The share derived from intergovernmental sources (local, county, state and federal grants) decreased from 19.1 to 18.2 percent over the same period.

  • Expenditures totaled $312.2 million, a 1.9 percent increase from 2017. Adjusted for inflation, town expenditures decreased 1.8 percent from 2009 to 2018.

  • Debt service expenditures totaled $11.1 million, up 16.3 percent from 2017. Outstanding debt totaled $56.7 million, a 1.1 percent increase from 2017. This included bonded indebtedness totaling $35.6 million, up 2.2 percent from 2017.

  • Roads and bridges claimed the largest town expenditures in 2018 at 59.7 percent, followed by general government (18.2 percent), fire protection (12.2 percent), debt service (3.6 percent), other public safety (1.8 percent) and all other areas (4.5 percent).

  • Sliced differently, $267.3 million (85.6 percent) of town expenses were allocated to current expenditures and $33.8 million (10.8 percent) to capital outlay, in addition to debt service payments.

Of 1,781 townships in Minnesota, 176 failed to comply report their 2018 financial information to the Office of the State Auditor as required by law. This number is a five-year high, up 21 from the prior year, and includes 26 towns that also failed to report in 2017 and 52 that failed to report in both 2016 and 2017.

In the Enterprise coverage area, only Steamboat River Twp. failed to comply with the statutory reporting requirement.

Regional data

In the Headwaters Region, which includes Hubbard County and four other counties, 97 towns reported their 2018 finances. Total revenues in the region increased slightly to $13.4 million, and total expenditures increased 10.8 percent to $13.6 million. Debt service in the region increased 20.9 percent to total $134,000.

Becker County joins eight other counties in the West Central Region, where 217 towns reported total revenues of $35.4 million, a 5.9 percent decrease, and total expenditures of $33.5 million, a 6.3 percent decrease. Debt service in the region decreased 28.9 percent and totaled $1.6 million.

Wadena County and four other counties comprise the North Central Region, where 142 towns reported revenues totaling $26.3 million, a 0.4 percent decrease, and expenditures totaling $25.3 million, a 1.6 percent decrease. Debt service increased 53.6 percent, totaling $972,319.

Hubbard County townships

Akeley Township (population 569) – With a taxable tax capacity of $895,467 and a tax levy payable 2018 of $189,018, the township raised revenues totaling $208,596, including $187,602 in taxes, $547 in licenses and permits, $20,390 in state grants and $57 in interest earnings.

Expenditures in 2018 totaled $179,656 and included current expenses of $35,999 for general government, $29,741 for public safety, $109,290 for roads and bridges, $100 for parks and recreation and $4,526 for all other current expenditures. Compared to total revenues, that’s a net income of $28,940.

Arago Township (pop. 634) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,852,853 and a tax levy of $341,025, revenues totaled $371,470, including $345,671 in taxes, $64 in licenses and permits, $24,574 in state grants and $1,161 from all other sources.

Expenditures totaled $218,612 and included current expenses of $51,862 for general government, $17,576 for public safety, $144,482 for roads and bridges and $1,000 for other, plus $3,692 in capital outlay, also for roads and bridges. All in, that’s a net income of $152,858.

Arago Township reported total bonded indebtedness of $39,461 in 2018 for a general obligation bond.

Badoura Township (pop. 135) – With a taxable tax capacity of $433,499 and a tax levy of $86,007, revenues totaled $93,603, including $84,550 in taxes and $9,053 in state grants.

Expenditures totaled $173,917 and included current expenses of $17,825 for general government, $9,475 for public safety, $143,617 for roads and bridges and $3,000 for other. Overall, the township ran a net loss of $80,314.

Clay Township (pop. 72) – With a taxable tax capacity of $439,355 and a tax levy of $55,004, revenues totaled $86,833, including $78,314 in taxes, $60 in licenses and permits, $5,871 in state grants, $6 in charges for services, $1,697 in interest and $885 from other sources.

Expenditures totaled $57,383 and included current expenses of $14,138 for general government, $2,982 for public safety, $26,331 for roads and bridges and $13,932 for other. That’s a net income of $29,450.

Clover Township (pop. 174) – With a taxable tax capacity of $591,222 and a tax levy of $39,301, revenues totaled $93,902, including $63,673 in taxes, $140 in license and permits, $29,172 in state grants, $66 in service charges, $811 in interest and $40 from other.

Expenditures totaled $69,830 and included current expenses of $33,569 for general government, $5,450 for public safety, $7,284 for roads and bridges, $12,080 for parks and rec and $2,220 for other, plus $9,227 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net income of $24,072.

Crow Wing Lake Township (pop. 346) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,231,672 and a tax levy of $262,533, revenues totaled $308,870, including $244,922 in taxes, $17,649 in federal grants, $22,520 in state grants, 14,686 in service charges, $466 in interest and $8,627 from other.

Expenditures totaled $206,774 and included current expenses of $33,583 for general government, $15,889 for public safety, $154,435 for roads and bridges, $497 for parks and rec and $2,370 for other. That’s a net income of $102,096.

Farden Township (pop. 1,167) – With a taxable tax capacity of $2,013,182 and a tax levy of $409,010, revenues totaled $447,440, including $415,462 in taxes, $600 in licenses and permits, $29,528 in state grants, $806 in service charges and $1,044 in interest.

Expenditures totaled $664,039 and included current expenses of $78,243 for general government, $37,381 for public safety, $515,172 for roads and bridges, $11,709 for parks and rec and $20,757 for other, plus $777 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net loss of $216,599.

Fern Township (pop. 271) – With a taxable tax capacity of $205,857 and a tax levy of $45,811, revenues totaled $65,087, including $46,500 in taxes, $15,587 in state grants, $425 in service charges and $2,575 from other.

Expenditures totaled $72,628 and included current expenses of $20,614 for general government, $4,516 for public safety, $28,634 for roads and bridges and $1,502 for other, plus $11,793 in capital outlay for general government and $5,569 for roads and bridges. That’s a net loss of $7,541.

Guthrie Township (pop. 576) – With a taxable tax capacity of $493,764 and a tax levy of $97,026, revenues totaled $116,480, including $94,730 in taxes, $18,097 in state grants, $800 in service charges, $174 in interest and $2,679 from other.

Expenditures totaled $79,489 and included current expenses of $37,040 for general government, $9,671 for public safety, $27,122 for roads and bridges and $5,656 for other. That’s a net income of $36,991.

Hart Lake Township (pop. 507) – With a taxable tax capacity of $513,790 and a tax levy of $75,018, revenues totaled $128,761, including $113,825 in taxes, $14,338 in state grants, $4 in service charges and $594 from other.

Expenditures totaled $101,090 and included current expenses of $34,507 for general government, $16,362 for public safety and $50,221 for roads and bridges. That’s a net income of $27,671.

Helga Township (pop. 1,518) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,519,126 and a tax levy of $317,008, revenues totaled $362,342, including $315,667 in taxes, $3,673 in licenses and permits, $30,867 in state grants, $8,764 in service charges, $2,396 in interest and $975 from other.

Expenditures totaled $619,639 and included current expenses of $93,315 for general government, $43,150 for public safety, $88,409 for roads and bridges and $5,853 for other, plus $323,340 in capital outlay for roads and bridges, $60,491 in principal payments and $5,081 in interest payments. That’s a net loss of $257,297.

Helga Township reported $229,676 in bonded indebtedness in 2018 for a general obligation bond.

Hendrickson Township (pop. 322) – With a taxable tax capacity of $246,361 and a tax levy of $35,004, revenues totaled $54,336, including $40,185 in taxes, $12,862 in state grants, $385 in service charges, $900 in interest and $4 from other.

Expenditures totaled $42,476 and included current expenses of $14,227 for general government, $4,979 for public safety, $16,234 for roads and bridges and $7,035 for other. That’s a net income of $11,860.

Henrietta Township (pop. 1,573) – With a taxable tax capacity of $2,411,244 and a tax levy of $399,980, revenues totaled $445,144, including $394,574 in taxes, $6,161 in licenses and permits, $39,449 in state grants, $729 in service charges, $4,073 in interest and $158 from other.

Expenditures totaled $472,143 and included current expenses of $80,319 for general government, $34,528 for public safety, $346,611 for roads and bridges, $200 for parks and rec and $10,485 for other. That’s a net loss of $26,999.

Hubbard Township (pop. 788) – With a taxable tax capacity of $2,185,649 and a tax levy of $222,303, revenues totaled $251,800, including $219,216 in taxes, $120 in licenses and permits, $27,742 in state grants, $3,370 in service charges, $1,191 in interest and $161 from other.

Expenditures totaled $256,808 and included current expenses of $88,717 for general government, $21,817 for public safety, $145,695 for roads and bridges and $579 for other. That’s a net loss of $5,008.

Lake Alice Township (pop. 100) – With a taxable tax capacity of $369,610 and a tax levy of $37,002, revenues totaled $61,776, including $52,767 in taxes, $6,378 in state grants, $100 in service charges, $1,358 in interest and $1,173 from other.

Expenditures totaled $36,776 and included current expenses of $13,790 for general government, $10,189 for public safety, $6,723 for roads and bridges, $200 for parks and rec and $2,993 for other, plus $2,881 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net income of $25,000.

Lake Emma Township (pop. 988) – With a taxable tax capacity of $3,643,041 and a tax levy of $295,032, revenues totaled $341,387, including $296,111 in taxes, $30,567 in state grants, $3,846 in service charges, $6,364 in interest and $4,499 from other.

Expenditures totaled $701,010 and included current expenses of $61,734 for general government, $28,253 for public safety, $587,169 for roads and bridges, $1,650 for parks and rec and $22,204 for other. That’s a net loss of $359,623.

Lake George Township (pop. 388) – With a taxable tax capacity of $485,662 and a tax levy of $84,876, revenues totaled $113,591, including $84,211 in taxes, $26,194 in state grants, $454 in service charges, $147 in interest and $2,585 from other.

Expenditures totaled $99,759 and included current expenses of $36,305 for general government, $33,130 for public safety, $28,838 for roads and bridges and $1,486 for parks and rec. That’s a net income of $13,832.

Lake Hattie Township (pop. 218) – With a taxable tax capacity of $303,678 and a tax levy of $70,002, revenues totaled $86,423, including $75,891 in taxes, $10,250 in state grants, $4 in service charges and $278 in interest.

Expenditures totaled $49,288 and included current expenses of $18,419 for general government, $26,125 for roads and bridges and $450 for parks and rec, plus $4,294 in capital outlay for public safety. That’s a net income of $37,135.

Lakeport Township (pop. 883) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,317,941 and a tax levy of $185,410, revenues totaled $275,223, including $187,351 in taxes, $162 in federal grants, $20,028 in state grants, $30,918 in service charges, $3,249 in interest and $33,515 from other.

Expenditures totaled $184,344 and included current expenses of $22,250 for general government, $56,735 for public safety, $72,913 for roads and bridges and $6,118 for other, plus $26,328 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net income of $90,879.

Mantrap Township (pop. 541) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,481,673 and a tax levy of $177,101, revenues totaled $229,214, including $176,226 in taxes, $22,501 in state grants, $24,509 in service charges, $10 in interest and $5,968 from other.

Expenditures totaled $202,636 and included current expenses of $57,463 for general government, $26,976 for public safety and $118,197 for roads and bridges. That’s a net income of $26,578.

Nevis Township (pop. 1,059) – With a taxable tax capacity of $2,506,703 and a tax levy of $475,023, revenues totaled $529,383, including $485,769 in taxes, $42,073 in state grants, $1,104 in interest and $437 from other.

Expenditures totaled $551,036 and included current expenses of $64,256 for general government, $48,493 for public safety, $434,128 for roads and bridges, $226 for parks and rec and $1,300 for other, plus $109 in capital outlay for general government and $2,524 for roads and bridges. That’s a net loss of $21,653.

According to the auditor’s analysis of town enterprise operations in 2018, Nevis Township’s sewage collection and disposal system had operating revenues of $11,212 and $10,648 in operating expenses, an income of $564. With non-operating revenues of $5,397 and expenses of $2,577, that’s a net income of $3,384. The system also made $2,385 in interest payments and $5,000 in principal payments in 2018.

Nevis Township reported $48,000 in long-term, non-bonded indebtedness in 2018.

Rockwood Township (pop. 430) – With a taxable tax capacity of $536,087 and a tax levy of $76,515, revenues totaled $99,049, including $76,874 in taxes, $50 in licenses and permits, $18,126 in state grants, $3,860 in service charges, $92 in interest and $47 from other.

Expenditures totaled $85,577 and included current expenses of $27,643 for general government, $13,705 for public safety, $35,088 for roads and bridges and $250 for other, plus $8,891 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net income of $13,472.

Schoolcraft Township (pop. 113) – With a taxable tax capacity of $139,704 and a tax levy of $15,005, revenues totaled $33,583, including $28,404 in taxes, $4,843 in state grants, $328 in interest and $8 from other.

Expenditures totaled $25,181 and included current expenses of $10,301 for general government, $4,353 for public safety and $6,563 for roads and bridges, plus $3,964 in capital outlay for general government. That’s a net income of $8,402.

Steamboat River Township (pop. 126) – The township had a taxable tax capacity of $463,297 and a tax levy of $49,498, but failed to report its revenues and expenses.

Straight River Township (pop. 762) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,132,241 and a tax levy of $151,013, revenues totaled $182,612, including $146,441 in taxes, $25,059 in state grants, $469 in county/local grants, $4,662 in service charges, $1,941 in interest and $4,040 from other.

Expenditures totaled $172,776 and included current expenses of $43,959 for general government, $18,240 for public safety, $101,387 for roads and bridges and $9,190 for other. That’s a net income of $9,836.

Thorpe Township (pop. 53) – With a taxable tax capacity of $309,007 and a tax levy of $31,996, revenues totaled $43,618, including $31,531 in taxes, $75 in licenses and permits, $11,000 in state grants, $771 in county/local grants, $239 in interest and $2 from other.

Expenditures totaled $46,320 and included current expenses of $15,858 for general government, $28,962 for roads and bridges and $1,500 for other. That’s a net loss of $2,702.

Todd Township (pop. 1,410) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,667,113 and a tax levy of $286,079, revenues totaled $375,583, including $288,655 in taxes, $48,991 in licenses and permits, $33,048 in state grants, $2,623 in service charges and $2,266 in interest.

Expenditures totaled $295,502 and included current expenses of $129,229 for general government, $25,242 for public safety, $127,681 for roads and bridges and $700 for other, plus $12,150 in capital outlay for general government and $500 for roads and bridges. That’s a net income of $80,081.

White Oak Township (pop. 513) – With a taxable tax capacity of $896,338 and a tax levy of $320,492, revenues totaled $354,161, including $323,167 in taxes, $562 in federal grants, $29,563 in state grants, $500 in service charges, $227 in interest and $142 from other.

Expenditures totaled $490,249 and included current expenses of $52,214 for general government, 18,565 for public safety, $395,148 for roads and bridges and $24,322 for other. That’s a net loss of $136,088.

Note: Data from Henrietta, Helga and Mantrap townships could not be verified.

Hubbard County totals – Countywide, towns with a total population of 16,236 had a taxable tax capacity of $30,285,136 and a total tax levy of $4,829,092. They took in total revenues of $5,760,267, including $4,898,289 in taxes, $60,481 in licenses and permits, $18,373 in federal grants, $579,680 in state grants, $1,240 in county and local grants, $101,517 in charges for services, $30,412 in interest earnings and $70,275 in all other revenues.

Township expenditures totaled $6,154,938 countywide, and included current expenses of $1,187,379 for general government, $537,398 for public safety, $3,772,459 for roads and bridges and $147,493 for other, plus $416,039 for capital outlay including $76,120 for general government, $4,294 for public safety and $335,625 for roads and bridges.

Select Becker County townships

Carsonville Township (pop. 230) – With a taxable tax capacity of $303,152 and a tax levy of $128,801, revenues totaled $276,247, including $130,827 in taxes, $29,730 in state grants, $1,437 in county/local grants, $107,009 in service charges, $2,270 in interest and $4,974 from other.

Expenditures totaled $261,944 and included current expenses of $23,723 for general government, $89,087 for public safety, $68,538 for roads and bridges and $1,389 for other, plus $19,300 in capital outlay for general government and $59,907 for public safety. That’s a net income of $14,303.

Green Valley Township (pop. 398) – With a taxable tax capacity of $455,499 and a tax levy of $104,002, revenues totaled $131,590, including $100,404 in taxes, $30,011 in state grants, $1,023 in county/local grants, $4 in service charges and $148 in interest.

Expenditures totaled $126,554 and included current expenses of $14,397 for general government, $29,240 for public safety, $74,651 for roads and bridges and $8,266 for other. That’s a net income of $5,036.

Osage Township (pop. 898) – With a taxable tax capacity of $1,146,368 and a tax levy of $160,998, revenues totaled $202,252, including $159,337 in taxes, $33,742 in state grants, $1,242 in county/local grants, $940 in service charges, $220 in interest and $6,771 from other.

Expenditures totaled $228,931 and included current expenses of $53,492 for general government, $28,330 for public safety, $115,830 for roads and bridges, $1,876 for parks and rec and $2,661 for other, plus $3,140 in capital outlay for general government, $23,136 in principal payments and $466 in interest payments. That’s a net loss of $26,679.

Pine Point Township (pop. 395) – With a taxable tax capacity of $329,275 and a tax levy of $83,002, revenues totaled $115,048, including $81,363 in taxes, $30,595 in state grants, $2,304 in service charges, $314 in interest and $472 from other.

Expenditures totaled $87,621 and included current expenses of $14,569 for general government, $32,326 for public safety, $38,922 for roads and bridges and $1,804 for other. That’s a net income of $27,427.

Savannah Township (pop. 181) – With a taxable tax capacity of $495,557 and a tax levy of $52,396, revenues totaled $70,126, including $50,104 in taxes, $14,155 in state grants, $5,674 in county/local grants, $6 in service charges, $176 in interest and $11 from other.

Expenditures totaled $69,409 and included current expenses of $24,711 for general government, $8,990 for public safety, $35,022 for roads and bridges and $686 for other. That’s a net income of $717.

Two Inlets Township (pop. 229) – With a taxable tax capacity of $680,424 and a tax levy of $67,501, revenues totaled $90,410, including $66,887 in taxes, $67 in licenses and permits, $20,896 in state grants, $1,051 in county/local grants, $1,495 in interest and $14 from other.

Expenditures totaled $72,849 and included current expenses of $32,232 for general government, $7,152 for public safety and $33,463 for roads and bridges. That’s a net income of $17,561.

Wolf Lake Township (pop. 279) – With a taxable tax capacity of $249,129 and a tax levy of $63,274, revenues totaled $82,128, including $59,731 in taxes, $20,899 in state grants, $1,304 in service charges, $168 in interest and $26 from other.

Expenditures totaled $154,944 and included current expenses of $23,302 for general government, $16,292 for public safety, $110,522 for roads and bridges and $4,828 for other. That’s a net loss of $72,816.

Select Wadena County townships

Blueberry Township (pop. 720) – With a taxable tax capacity of $863,287 and a tax levy of $135,772, revenues totaled $166,090, including $136,370 in taxes, $20 in licenses and permits, $29,346 in state grants, $4 in service charges, $94 in interest and $256 from other.

Expenditures totaled $195,195 and included current expenses of $29,708 for general government, $35,985 for public safety, $126,503 for roads and bridges and $2,999 for other. That’s a net loss of $29,105.

Huntersville Township (pop. 118) – With a taxable tax capacity of $206,854 and a tax levy of $28,009, revenues totaled $64,571, including $26,688 in taxes, $11,332 in state grants, $892 in service charges, $100 in interest and $23,559 from other.

Expenditures totaled $70,520 and included current expenses of $7,551 for general government, $9,030 for public safety, $30,130 for roads and bridges and $23,809 for other. That’s a net loss of $5,949.

Shell River Township (pop. 222) – With a taxable tax capacity of $359,759 and a tax levy of $53,376, revenues totaled $94,488, including $61,710 in taxes, $31,988 in state grants and $790 in interest earnings.

Expenditures totaled $106,585 and included current expenses of $10,433 for general government, $18,129 for public safety, $77,138 for roads and bridges and $885 for other. That’s a net loss of $12,097.