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County Board: Expect sticker shock with property values

Due to what’s been called an “extreme increase” in property values since 2020, Carlton County property owners can expect the estimated market value of their property to increase substantially this year, according to the Carlton County assessor’s office.

Calling it the “craziest real estate market” he’d ever seen, assessor Kyle Holmes told the Carlton County board of commissioners at their regular meeting Monday that they will probably be getting calls after property owners receive their 2022 Proposed Valuation and Classification notices for property taxes due in 2023 around the end of April. Those are the yellow letters the county sends out each spring.

“Our office is also expecting a record number of calls,” Holmes said.

He said property values change from year to year based on market value, even if there have been no improvements to a property. The county assessor must value a property at 100 percent of its market value on Jan. 2 each year.

The current sales study on residential properties — Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 — shows that all jurisdictions in Carlton County have medians below 70 percent, which will require a minimum of a 30-percent value increase to get to required value levels.

“Rising values do not raise revenue,” the assessor’s office stated in a press release Tuesday. “The tax burden is simply redistributed or adjusted. The assessor’s job is not to raise revenue or predict sales but to reflect what the real estate market is doing and how property is selling under current conditions.”

Holmes told commissioners that property owners who question their estimated market value or classification should first contact the county assessor’s office. If a property owner is not satisfied with the explanation, they can appeal to the local board of appeal and equalization wherever they live and then possibly the county board of appeal and equalization.

“This is happening in Aitkin County and St. Louis County,” Holmes said. “Property values have gone up 30 percent. In fact, some properties in St. Louis County have gone up 50 percent. It’s scary how much property values have gone up. We are trying to do our best to make sure that the taxpayers are paying their fair share.”

As an example of how property values have risen, he said a farm that was purchased for $595,000 not long ago just sold for $1.4 million. There is also a record number of new construction projects, he said.

“People who want to sell their homes probably love it,” he said.

He said Enbridge will be paying a substantial increase in taxes now that the Line 3 pipeline has been installed and is carrying oil. That could alleviate some pressure on local homeowners.

Building plans

County coordinator Dennis Genereau showed board members plans for the proposed justice center and updates at the courthouse and other county-owned buildings in the building committee year-end report at the Feb. 28 meeting.

Replacing the roof on the courthouse building was discussed. It was proposed that LHB, an architectural firm, be hired to oversee the project. According to information in the agenda packet, the original contract with the firm to oversee the project was for $10,700, but the contract was amended to include additional services in the amount of $36,520 to bring the total to $47,220. The additional services would be to assist with calling for bids and to oversee the project as it is underway.

“The infrastructure is sound,” Genereau said. “Part of it is a rubber roof, another part is shingles, and there is an elevator shaft. It makes sense that an architectural firm oversees the replacement of the roof and construction costs. My staff does not have the expertise.”

Commissioner Tom Proulx disagreed with hiring a project manager. “I don’t use one when I get the roof replaced on my house,” he said. “That costs a lot of extra money.” The board approved the recommendation to amend the contract with LHB by a vote of 4-1, with Proulx dissenting.

Sheriff Kelly Lake informed the board that Carlton County had received a grant of $155,273 from the state’s Safe and Secure Courthouse Initiative grant program.

“We tried to get it last year but they didn’t have any money,” she told the board. “This year we received an unusually large amount. The grant funds will be used in the new justice center. The matching funds for the grant will be built into the justice center.”

An address on a private driveway for the justice center has been set by the city of Carlton as 1780 Justice Drive.

In other matters

• After discussion, the board approved dropping the mask requirement in county buildings, effective March 1.

“The number of Covid cases is dropping,” commissioner Gary Peterson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The schools in Cloquet and Duluth and other communities dropped the mask requirement.”

• The board authorized an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for operating funds for the Cloquet and Moose Lake Carlton County airports in the amount of $32,000. The funding originated from the American Rescue Plan Act, directly from the Federal Aviation Administration, to reimburse eligible airport expenses at local government airports. County engineer JinYeene Newman said this is the third round of funding.

• The board also approved a water service line program to financially aid residents in connecting to the new waterline from Carlton. The board approved giving a loan of $375,000 to Twin Lakes Township, which will administer the program. The township will eventually pay the funds back to the county, according to the agreement.

• The next meeting of the Carlton County board of commissioners is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 8 in the Transportation Building meeting room.