County Board of Appeals and Equalization considers requests for property value reductions

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Fillmore County commissioners took the oath of office to serve as the county’s board of appeals and equalization last Tuesday evening, June 18. The county had several residents appealing the values of their properties.

Fillmore County Land Records Director Brian Hoff and Assessor Cindy Blagsvedt first reviewed the role of the board in determining the final values of property. Hoff shared that the equalization duties the board carries out “ensures equalization based on facts presented and property tax law.”

He outlined with a slide presentation that eligible appellants appeal at their local boards first, and that open book appellants may directly appeal to the county board. The board has the authority to review all assessments throughout the county and may hear all appeals from all taxation districts, increasing or decreasing estimated market value to the sum believed to be its market value, based on evidence.

The presentation included the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s rules on equalization, beginning with a discussion that median sales ratios are used for equalization and state board orders, that six sales in any taxing district in any property class constitutes a valid sample for state orders and that adjusted ratios under 90% will result in a state-ordered increase and adjusted ratios over 105% will result in a state-ordered decrease. It was also noted increases of over 25% will not result in further changes and that farmland values may be changed if border values are not within 10% of adjoining counties.

The 2019 Fillmore County assessment summary cited that agriculture and rural vacant land had 44 bare land sales over 34.5 acres – topping last year by 14 sales, a 5% increase to tillable values and a 10% increase to non-tillable values, and 13 sales with buildings but no change to building site values.

In residential sales, there were 260 county-wide, 38 fewer than last year. The majority of cities had residential value increases based on the county’s sales study.

Commercial sales saw 12 county-wide, with no change to values due to the sales study.

Township and city levy rates increased the most in Amherst and Pilot Mound townships between the 2018 and 2019 payable years – from 59.047 to 71.739 in Amherst, for an increase of 12.692%, and in Pilot Mound, from 57.079 to 69.650, or 12.571%. The total township 2018 estimated market value stood at $2,232,168,100, increasing by 5.68% in 2019 to $3,415,714,900 in 2019.

City totals were $982,071,200 on the 2018 assessment, while on the 2019 assessment, they were noted at $1,067,710,200, for an increase of 8.72%. The summary showed that the county total was $4,214,239,300 in 2018, increasing by 6.39 percent in 2019 to $4,483,425,100.

Several property owners brought forward requests to have their values adjusted, including Ronald and Colleen Allen of Chatfield, woodland property owner Mark Hobert of Clive, Iowa, Adam Brennan of Rushford, Paula Ruesink of Memorial Drive, Mark Burmeister of Wykoff, the Monica Griffin Trust of Chatfield, Matthew H. Stier of rural Wykoff, and Jacqueline Garnatz of Spring Valley.

The board handled each request individually, deeming reductions necessary with all except Hobert’s, which is in a Department of Natural Resources tax reduction program. Discussion regarding Garnatz’s property is ongoing because while some appellants had their own independent appraisals done or had home insurance documents to share, Garnatz had only her tax documents in hand at the moment and needed to seek further paperwork to prove that her home is still a midcentury two-bedroom not worth quite the value that assessors had placed on it.

The board chose to allot Garnatz time to gather proof of what she feels is her home’s value in comparison to the county’s estimated value by not adjourning the meeting. Continuation of the meeting was set for this Tuesday morning, June 25, at 9 a.m. as a public hearing at the commissioners’ meeting.

The board of appeals establishes changes to estimated market values before the annual truth in taxation hearing and budget meeting, held in December, at which time no changes to values can be made.