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Letter: County Board has time to address taxes

I attended the Goodhue County budget and tax meeting Dec. 5. My purpose was to get answers about the 49 percent increase in 2014 property tax on my father's farm land. I was disappointed in the response I received.

First, commissioners seemed surprised that there was this magnitude of increase. Increases among those of us in the room ranged from 40 to 100 percent over 2013 taxes.

Somehow I expect elected officials to be aware of tax increases on county property holders. To add insult to injury, one commissioner seemed pleased to note that taxes on his rental properties had gone down.

I suggested to the board that mitigation in the form of reduced tax rates on farmland might be appropriate in light of the big increases in farmland values. I was told that differential tax rates were not permitted by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

However, I know that differential rates are often used. For example, in the city where I live, property on the St. Croix River is taxed at a higher rate than other residential property.

I also asked what proportion of the total budget increase was paid for by the higher taxes on farm land – no answer was available. Further communication from the finance director failed to answer this question.

I suspect that taxes on farm land are more than 100 percent of the total increase in revenue to the county. Do county residents really want farm land to pay for increased expenses?

This was a budget and tax meeting, but the presentation of the budget included only the expense side of the budget. No data was presented on the revenue side. I think this is an inexcusable omission and including revenues would have helped to answer my question about revenue from taxes on farmland.

The Goodhue County commissioners have failed to represent their constituents and failed to address inequitable taxes. They have one more meeting — on Dec. 17 — to set the final rates and budget. Let's hope that they see their way to mitigate some of the burden on owners of farmland.

Barbara J. Ronningen

Afton, Minn.