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Kandiyohi County truth in taxation hearing is Thursday

WILLMAR -- The recent mailing of proposed Kandiyohi County property tax statements, which included tax increases for many residents could result in a bigger crowd than normal at this year's truth-in-taxation hearing.

WILLMAR -- The recent mailing of proposed Kandiyohi County property tax statements, which included tax increases for many residents could result in a bigger crowd than normal at this year's truth-in-taxation hearing.

The public hearing begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in the county commissioners' room on the second floor of the Health and Human Services Building, 2200 23rd St. N.E. in Willmar

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said it's hard to tell how many people will show up to discuss the county's 2012 proposed budget and levy, but he's preparing for a crowd.

The purpose of the hearing is not to protest assessed property values but to discuss the county's proposed $59 million budget and $28.1 million net levy, which is a 2.6 percent levy increase from last year

Kleindl said about 2.1 percent of the 2.6 percent levy increase is because of state cuts and funding shifts, including elimination of the homestead market value credit and implementation of a new homestead market value exclusion.

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Based on the phone calls county staff members have received so far since the proposed tax statements were mailed out, Kleindl said he expects many of the questions Thursday will stem from the homestead credit changes.

The homestead market value exclusion provides for a portion of each home's market value to be excluded from its value for property tax calculations, thought that does not mean the valuation of the property decreased.

The Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department explains it this way: Each home contributes a smaller amount to each taxing jurisdiction's tax base, and the tax rate thus tends to be a little higher because of the reduced tax base overall. This is why taxes increase for the other types of property in the jurisdiction. The tax burden on an individual homestead may go up or down depending on the situation in that jurisdiction.

Kleindl is also expecting Thursday to discuss how the 2012 budget was crafted.

To keep the budget "lean" to prevent higher tax increases, Kleindl said the county is using reserve funds to pay for a new $1.1 million landfill cell and is phasing in mandated repairs to elevators over three years.

He said the state reduced county funds by about $400,000 from last year for social services, mental health, chemical dependency, food support and corrections.

If the county had not used reserves make up for state cuts and changes in the homestead market value credit, the levy would have increased by about 9 percent.

Kleindl said the budget is as tight as it can be and that he doubts there will be any additional reductions made following the truth-in-taxation hearing.

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Because school levies were voted on after the proposed tax statements were printed, residents who live in school districts where additional levies were approved in November, including Willmar and New London, may see a higher final tax figure than what is reflected on the current statement.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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