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Co. gives townships a one-year break on assessor's fees

WILLMAR -- Townships in Kandiyohi County will be getting a break, at least for one more year, on the annual fees they pay to the county assessor's office for services.

A proposal to raise the fees was defeated this week by the County Board of Commissioners because of concerns that township budgets are tight this year because of excessive snow removal costs.

That means that the county -- which is also experiencing record-breaking snow removal costs -- will absorb the assessment expenses.

About 75 percent of the townships contract with the county assessor to conduct reviews and set property market values. Those values are used as part of the formula for property taxes on residential and commercial properties.

Under the current three-year contract, which ends in 2011, townships pay $10 per parcel.

That has generated $150,710 in revenue for the county each year. That's about one-third of the assessor's annual budget.

That $10 per parcel fee doesn't come close to covering the costs of doing the assessment, said County Assessor Tim Falkum, who told the commissioners the actual cost may be around $30 per parcel.

He suggested increasing the fee to $11 per parcel starting in 2012. That increase would generate an additional $15,071 in revenue for the county.

It would also mean increased expenses to the townships, with most townships seeing an increase of a couple hundred dollars a year in total fees. The largest increase would have been an additional fee of $2,394 for New London Township. Regal Township would have had the smallest increase of $47.

"It won't cover our expenses, but we're not here to cover all our expenses," said Falkum of the proposed increase.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said the proposal represented a "modest cost" that was reasonable considering the increased complexity of assessing properties.

"It's never been simple, but it's less simple now than it ever has been," Madsen said.

But Commissioner Richard Larson said townships "are getting hit awfully hard" with snow removal costs this year and questioned if they could absorb an increased expense.

"It's quite a jump," said Commissioner Dennis Peterson, adding, "Either way the taxpayer is going to pay the bill."

A vote to increase fees was defeated on a 2-3 vote with Commissioners Madsen and Jim Butterfield voting yes and Commissioners Larson, Peterson and Dean Shuck voting no,

The board unanimously approved a motion to freeze the $10 fee, but the contract will be for just one year instead of three years.

The board will likely reconsider the rate structure again next year.

Meanwhile, individual townships will hold annual elections and meetings on Tuesday.

The Kandiyohi County Township Association will hold its annual meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Health and Human Services Building in Willmar.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750