Property taxes are on the rise again across the metro area, and at a recent hearing in Ramsey County, homeowners voiced their discontent.
“We are not your ATM machine,” Joyce Thompson of Shoreview told County Board members.
The county has too easy a time spending money, said Sean Favorite, who owns rental property in St. Paul but has moved to more fiscally conservative Chanhassen.
But the double-digit percentage hikes that had drawn complaints in St. Paul are popping up in the suburbs, too — in Columbia Heights and Fridley, where home values are rebounding, and in Dayton, Blaine and Shoreview, too.
“It does appear that the value of existing properties is continuing to march upwards,” and that change often triggers higher tax bills, said Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities.
Hopkins residents also may find themselves inching nearer a 10 percent increase mark after voting in November to approve school spending proposals.
Because the cost of those levy votes do not appear on the Truth in Taxation statements sent to individual property owners in November, homeowners in Scott County — where a majority of the school districts had proposals on the ballot — can expect bigger increases when their 2018 bills arrive in March. That will be the case in Roseville, Shoreview and Mounds View as well.
Roseville and Mounds View district residents were among the 25 or so people who rose to challenge the size of their tax bills at the recent Ramsey County hearing.
In Hennepin County’s boardroom, however, the situation was quite different. There, as in Minneapolis City Hall the following night, the vast majority of speakers championed spending proposals, leaving the people who came to vent about their taxes puzzled and frustrated.
Mark Sauter, who lives on 16th Avenue S. in Minneapolis, had a simple message to share with Hennepin County Board and Minneapolis City Council members: He is nearing retirement, and after a property tax increase of 10.5 percent in 2017 and a projected 12.2 percent hike for 2018, he is worried that he will be taxed out of his home.
But Sauter was 13th on the list of speakers in Hennepin County, and 18th in Minneapolis.
That meant he had to listen first to advocates — seniors, high-rise residents and young people — speak on behalf of a $1.8 million plan to make county roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Commissioner Peter McLaughlin successfully added that proposal to the county’s budget in an amendment last week.
At the Minneapolis hearing, speakers pushed for funding aimed at helping seniors stay in their homes, creating a sober house for American Indians struggling with heroin addiction and beefing up the Civil Rights Department for enforcement of the city’s new minimum wage and sick leave ordinances.
“I am a progressive. I want to see nice things,” Sauter said after the hearing. “But to raise your taxes by 20 to 22 percent in two years is a little too much.”
A contributing factor in Sauter’s increase is the value of his house, which jumped 15.6 percent this year. Taxpayers whose property values rise more sharply than others are more vulnerable to steeper hikes. A city assessor, he said, offered at the hearing to take a new look at the house.
“She was nice and I was cordial,” he added. But he is uncertain about taking her up on the offer because he fears it might trigger another increase.
Homeowners whose property tax bills increase by at least $100 and more than 12 percent in a single year are eligible for a state refund, regardless of income. For an application form, go to bit.ly/1loIEcw or call 651-296-3781.
Sparse attendance at City Hall
Favorite, who had challenged the Ramsey County Board’s spending practices, was approached after the hearing by Commissioner Toni Carter. She represents the Lexington-Hamline area in St. Paul where Favorite owns a rental property.
He said that Carter explained that spending decisions aren’t easy — that the county operates in a complex environment that involves state and federal funding, too.
Carter was gracious, he said, and walked him to his car, which he found impressive. Now, Favorite said, he would stand with her on issues of mutual interest if she needs him.
The other tax hearings in St. Paul were not as eventful.
No one addressed the school board.
Just four people spoke at City Hall, despite the fact that the owner of the city’s median-valued home is eyeing an 11.7 percent tax hike — an increase to be eased by a reduction in what he or she has paid separately for street maintenance.
Danette Lincoln, who lives on Marshall Avenue, is facing a 23.9 percent property tax hike. She expected a bigger crowd, she told the City Council. Maybe people figured it would be a waste of time to come, she said. But she wanted her say, and she sounded a familiar refrain: “You are taxing us out of this city.”