SHERBURN - During the city of Sherburn's Truth in Taxation meeting Monday, the council revealed there will be no levy increase next year. However, the news was less than comforting to some landowners seeing large proposed jumps in their property taxes.
City Administrator Sam Hansen told a group of eight people who attended Monday's hearing that a preliminary levy increase of 1.9 percent was approved in September. Since then, the city has seen a 19 percent increase in state aid.
"That's something we haven't seen for a while," Hansen said. "We're almost back to the level [of state aid] of 2002."
Other factors that allowed the city to leave its levy unchanged include decreased insurance costs because of fewer staff, and no increase in set-aside funds.
"The set-aside funds go toward different projects," said Hansen, citing general administration, fire department, ambulance, street department, library, capital projects and the Community Hall projects.
"Most go toward the street department," he noted.
But some of those in attendance said some of those set-aside funds should go back to the taxpayers.
"Sherburn has the highest tax rate of all of Martin County," said Mike Ringnell. "My wife is a Realtor, and people say they don't want to move to Sherburn because the taxes are too high. As a small business owner, that's not something I like to hear."
"I can't believe we're that much higher, Mike," said council member Kurt Olson.
Council members also noted that property owners seem to pay more because there are fewer businesses and industry in Sherburn to shoulder the burden of projects, such as street improvements.
"It does cost more per person to pay to upkeep our town," Olson said.
As for "going negative" and returning some money to taxpayers, council member Jeff Ross was skeptical.
"It'd be good for that first year," he said. "But what happens when we use up that set-aside fund? We have to go ask for money again, or bond and pay interest. I know when something goes wrong at my house, it costs about $300. But when something goes wrong at the city level, the cost is about $30,000."
Several residents were upset and confused by their recent property tax assessment statements.
"It seems to me, mine goes up then down, and now it's back up again," said Linda Tirevold, whose property tax statement showed a nearly $600 increase in her property tax. "I would just like it explained to me. I heard there was a limit of how high it could be increased and it was around 12 percent, but I'm seeing mine go up 20 percent."
Council members noted that most individual property tax assessments need to be addressed at the county Assessor's Office hearings in the spring.
The city's no-change levy likely will be approved at the council meeting on Dec. 16.