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Truth in Taxation tops Blackduck Council meeting

Only three people showed up for Monday night's truth in taxation meeting at Blackduck City Hall. Business owner Kevin Beck, far left, listens to what the council has to say while Beltrami County Assessor Duane Ebbighausen, middle, waits his turn to speak. Blackduck resident Gordy Berg also waits for his turn to ask a question regarding his property taxes.

Only three people showed up for the city of Blackduck's city council and truth in taxation meeting Dec. 5.

A discussion on the final payment for the Industrial Lane project was held before it was approved. The reason for the discussion came about because the recap of partial payments showed that the total amount of the finished was about $1,700 over what the original amount was contracted for.

The original contract for the street project was for $143,081.84 but when the final payment request was made, it was for $144,383.33.

The audit confirmation from Miller McDonald was then read through and approved as was the bond payment for rural development.

A request made to the golf course for a donation to Seven Clans Casino was then brought to the table. The donation request was for a toy drive for the Red Lake Reservation.

Councilmember Scott Palmer suggested they donate four $25 gift certificates.

"It is just a suggestion but I think we should made the donation," he said.

City Administrator Karin Elhard was given the approval to either get the gift certificates or merchandise.

"I would rather take the money from local merchants in Blackduck than give them gift certificates," Palmer said. "I don't think that 2 year olds would appreciate gift certificates."

"I don't think so either, Scott," Elhard replied.

Councilman Daryl Lundberg said he would rather see them get merchandise than give them cash.

"Why not take the $100, buys the toys and have them come here to get them?" Lundberg asked.

The council then agreed that they would take Lundberg's suggestion and purchase the toys.

Elhard presented the council with a road verification status map, explaining that Beltrami County needed the council to review the map and then sign off on it.

"We don't have to do anything," Elhard explained. "Nothing has changed but they require us to sign off on it anyway."

Beltrami County Assessor Duane Ebbighausen was then asked to explain the market value exclusion during the truth in taxation hearing.

It was reported that the Local Government Aid looked good. The city is anticipating receiving more than $205,000 for the budget for 2012.

Former councilman and business owner Kevin Beck questioned Ebbighausen on why his estimated taxes had gone up an astronomical amount on some properties but not on others he owns.

"I have a piece of land that is all grass," Beck said. "There is nothing on it but grass. I mow it. That's it and yet my taxes on that piece of property went up 251 percent! I don't get it."

Ebbighausen explained that since the homestead tax credit had been discontinued, market values changed.

"The city of Blackduck's estimated market value for 2011 payable was $27,257,800," he said, "and 2012 payable is $23,206,100. That means the city has lost 15 percent or $4,051,700 of the tax base and because of that, taxes have gone up."

It is all tied into the estimated market values of the homes in the city. Ebbighausen explained that once the estimated market value of a home reaches $413,500, there is no excluded value.

Because of the lost tax base, market values change. Different citys, school districts and townships may all have different percent amounts, Ebbighausen explained.

Ebbighausen told the council and those residents who attended the meeting that if they had any questions or problems they would be more than happy to talk with them. He also told Beck that it seemed a little extreme the percentage amount his property went up and that if he would like to come in and sit down with them, they would see what happened and get things straightened out.

Beck thanked the assessor for his time and for answering his questions before leaving.

Blackduck resident Gordy Berg questioned Ebbighausen on his property taxes as well, stating that he was on a fixed income and so were a lot of other residents. How were they supposed to pay their taxes?

Again, the county assessor explained that if anyone had a question or problem with their property taxes, all they had to do was call the assessor's office and their case would be looked.

"There is n guarantee things will be changed but we will listen and take a look at what we are given," Ebbighausen said. "This is a large chunk for people to swallow and we want to make sure everyone understands what this means. We are always available to the public," he said.

The council thanks Ebbighausen for coming to the meeting and explaining things before moving on to an update on the bike trail.

Palmer told the council that there had been a citizen meeting and the general consensus was to proceed south.

"This direction is similar to what was proposed five years ago," Palmer explained. "The trail would go from the wayside rest south to the 'Welcome to Blackduck' sign then over to the old railroad grade."

Palmer said that the trail would follow the snowmobile trail on the railroad grade and over the trestle and that they would need to get in touch with the snowmobile club or whoever takes care of the trail to see if the bike trail and snowmobile trail could be combined.

The main concern, Palmer noted, was the fact that some snowmobiles use studded tracks and there was concern of those tearing the trail up.

"I think that is what part of the snowmobile license fee is for," Palmer said. "In case the trail gets damaged, that money would go for fixing it."

As there were no other committee reports, Lundberg adjourned the meeting.