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Editorial: State your case through Truth-in-Taxation

The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that property taxes could climb $344.3 million statewide in 2017. That would amount to a 3.8 percent increase over 2016. That projected increase is contingent on each and every local government across the state approving the preliminary levy it sent to the state back in September.

Goodhue County has a projected $31 million levy with an increase of roughly $2.15 million or 7.4 percent increase. City of Red Wing's preliminary increase is $2 million, the equivalent of 10.3 percent about the nearly $19.6 million in property taxes levied for 2016. Red Wing Public Schools, thanks for a voter-approved maintenance levy, will see a 25.4 percent hike in tax collections for 2017.

If you think a local jurisdiction proposes raising taxes too much, you should attend the designated Truth-in-Taxation hearing and state your case. If you support making the preliminary levy the actual levy — enough cuts, already — then convince leaders to do so.

These hearings provide a public platform for you to lobby for and against certain projects. And they can work. Consider that last year's preliminary statewide property taxes projected a 5 percent increase, but last year's final levy increase was closer to 4.5 percent or a $397 million hike. Goodhue County has lowered its preliminary levy nearly every time in the last decade.

The county finance department used preliminary levy figures to compute parcel-specific property tax estimates for 2017. If you own property in Goodhue County, your estimate recently arrived in the mail. The form also listed local Truth-in-Taxation meeting times and locations. (See story on page A1).

A few government entities are exempt from holding hearings. The reasons include population size and guaranteed levy decreases. Most local officials, however, opt to hold hearings because they believe in truth in taxation.

After receiving your input, local governments must set their final 2017 property tax levies by Dec. 28. Few governments will wait that long, which is why attending a Truth-in-Taxation hearing and speaking up now is important.

Remember, the final levies can be set lower, but not higher, than preliminary levies. If you want governments to spend more money than proposed, you'll have to wait until next September.

But for 2017, you have a legally guaranteed opportunity to try to sway how local elected officials spend our tax dollars and how much. Use it.