Spring property tax statements are starting to show up in mailboxes across the Twin Cities, stoking anxiety about the ability to pay just as thousands of Minnesotans are being furloughed or laid off in the wake of the pandemic.

The Ramsey County Board and staffers said this week they were exploring ways to "create flexibility" to help cash-strapped property owners, but stopped short of announcing any specific plans.

The Dakota County Board will take up the issue of property tax flexibility at its meeting Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hennepin and Anoka county leaders are calling on Gov. Tim Walz and lawmakers to take the lead on this issue.

The first half of the year's property taxes are due May 15, the second half Oct. 15. More than 70% of Minnesota residents own their homes, according to U.S. Census data.

Ramsey County commissioners said they were in talks with officials with school districts and cities, which also levy property taxes, about ways to help cash-strapped homeowners.

Scott County officials said they've heard the same concerns but haven't considered any sort of flexibility.

At the County Board meeting Tuesday, Ramsey County Manager Ryan O'Connor said a panel of staffers and board members was discussing options. While the county has deeper pockets and could potentially withstand some delay in payments, he said, smaller cities and school districts may lack those kinds of reserves.

"The smaller the jurisdiction, the quicker the cash flow becomes a significant issue if property tax payments are deferred," O'Connor said.

He counseled residents worried about their tax bill to wait.

"Property taxes are not due until May 15. If you are experiencing financial hardship, we encourage you to do nothing for the time being — to hold off for a few weeks," he said.

Hennepin County Administrator David Hough, in a statement, said county officials were asking Walz to issue an executive order, with the guidance of legislators or the Revenue Department, "to address the issue of property tax payments and their due dates ... so that there is a statewide uniform approach to providing relief for those who need it."

Washington County Administrator Kevin Corbid said his board is wrestling with the same issue. Taxpayers, especially small-business owners hit hard by closures, are calling county commissioners about tax relief.

Corbid said staffers are looking at ways to waive penalties for late payments, which will be discussed at next week's board meeting. But in terms of moving the May 15 deadline set by the state, he said, "We don't think we have the authority."

Anoka County will send its spring statements as usual this month. County leaders said due dates for property taxes are set by the Legislature, so state officials need to make a decision about any "change, postponement and/or grace period."

About one-third of Hennepin County's $2.5 billion annual budget comes from property taxes. In Ramsey County, about 44% of the $741.7 million annual budget comes from property taxes.

Staff writers Kim Hyatt and Erin Adler contributed to this report.