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Tax talk— Assessor’s office can help

FAIRMONT– With truth in taxation hearings taking place this month, there’s a lot of talk about levies, budgets and property taxes. While it’s a complicated subject for many to grasp, the Martin County Assessor’s office wants people to know that they’re available to help.

County Assessor, Mike Sheplee’s job is to value and classify the property. To value properties, they use market sales from the prior year. Then they set a value on every property every year in January.

“The sales that we use to come up with values, we have to sometimes time-trend the sales prices to bring them into the current market environment. We try to be as current with the market as we possibly can,” Sheplee said.

In looking at the coming year, Sheplee said that sale prices are increasing at a faster rate than they have in previous years.

Sheplee explained the timeline of what happens in a year.

“A value is set in January. Those values then are at the spring board of appeals typically in April and in June at the county board of appeal. In September the taxing jurisdictions start talking about how much they’re going to be spending, what their budgets are and what their levies might be,” Sheplee said.

Now that it’s December, boards are required to use the January values and September spending estimates and come up with a truth in taxation notice.

“That’s the first time a tax paper would see all of those things together, the value, the levy and its affect on tax,” Sheplee said.

He pointed out the December meetings are only to talk about the budget because discussions and questions from tax payers was supposed to come earlier in the year. However, the cycle will start up again in January.

Sheplee said that there are some programs every tax payer should be aware of, so they put together a brochure and added more links and information to the website.

“A major impact is homestead,” Sheplee said.

He said years ago it used to be calculated as a credit and today it’s an excluded value, which arrives at the same amount.

Homestead and relative homestead is an exclusion of up to $30,400 in taxable market value on a primary residence. This exclusion may result in lower property taxes. The exclusion phases out properties valued at $413,800 or more.

“What we’re seeing with these increasing home prices is more and more properties, the value continues to increase and the exclusion continues to decline by formula. People have more of their property taxed than probably in the prior year,” Sheplee explained.

To qualify, you need to own and occupy the property and be a Minnesota residents. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

Sheplee said there are some credit refunds people could check on. One is based on income and property taxes, and one is a special property tax refund, which is based on how much your property tax increased.

If your taxes went up more than 12 percent and you’re homestead, Sheplee said people may get some money back.

The date to apply to either of the credit refunds is Aug. 15.

Sheplee said many people don’t know about a special homestead for blind and disabled individuals. It provides a reduced property tax classification rate for the homestead property of a qualifying person. To qualify someone needs to be legally blind or totally disabled.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 1

Another program is the disabled veterans’ homestead exclusion. Sheplee said it’s a huge program and used a lot by veterans in the area.

“If a veteran is 100 percent, totally and permanently disabled, up to $3000,000 of the value of their property is excluded from taxes,” Sheplee said.

He suggested anyone who qualifies talk to veteran service officer, Doug Landsteiner. The application deadline for this is also coming up on Dec. 31.

Sheplee encouraged people to check out the assessor’s page on Martin County’s website at co.martin.mn.us.com. Click “Your Government” at the top of the page and Assessor is the first one listed under “Departments.”

Sheplee said there’s a link to a five minute video on the basics of property taxes. There are also links that explain how property is valued and classified as well as links on how to apply to the different property tax reduction and deferral programs.

Sheplee said the Beacon website is also a valuable tool people can use to see all kinds of data on not only their own property, but their neighbors as well.

“We get feedback on our Beacon website that it’s the best in the area because of how easy it is and it’s open and free,” Sheplee said.

He also said that when people see increases in their property taxes, more questions need to be asked whether than jumping to conclusions that it’s the fault of some thing or someone.

Especially in Fairmont, the hot property is lake property. Sheplee said it’s high demand property in low supply.

“People should look at the market valuation we put on their property and they can appeal those values. They should talk to the assessor first,” Sheplee said.

He explained someone should appeal if they think the assessor’s value is incorrect and they have evidence to show it should be a different value.

“We want it to be as accurate as it possibly can be,” Sheplee said.

Sheplee said they work with vendors all over the nation and have been looking at installing a new software system.

“The vendors that we talk to all say Minnesota has the most complex property tax system in America. You really have to invest your time to understand this,” Sheplee said.

He said they want to be able to help people understand and welcomed any questions.

“Education is huge for us,” Sheplee said.

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