MANKATO — The impact of the Legislature's property tax freeze and the spike in the value of farmland is beginning to solidify in Blue Earth County, and it's looking like very good news for homeowners.
"We've got more (tax) base and we're not trying to collect more money," said Blue Earth County Assessor Michael Stalberger.
The county portion of a Blue Earth County home's property taxes should drop more than 11 percent in 2014 while most farms will see an increase of close to 20 percent, according to preliminary calculations by Stalberger. Commercial/industrial properties should also see the portion of their property taxes going to the county fall by more than 11 percent whereas apartment buildings, which are also increasing in value (but not nearly as much as farms) will see about a 3 percent reduction.
"We're going to see some property tax reductions for a lot of our taxpayers at the expense of our agricultural properties," Stalberger said.
The county can't increase its levy in 2014 because the Legislature, which boosted aid to cities and counties during the 2013 session, put a levy freeze on most of those local governments. The county board could choose to reduce its levy, which would bring even bigger reductions for homes and commercial property and slightly ease the increase on farms.
But if the board sticks with a levy freeze — collecting the same $29 million in 2014 that it is levying this year — a hypothetical Blue Earth County home valued at $160,000 will see its county tax bill fall $69 to $535. The owner of a $300,000 home would see a $144 reduction, leaving a county tax bill of roughly $1,100.
As with homes, valuations of commercial properties in the counties are holding steady for next year. So the shift in tax burden to farm land will mean a projected reduction in county taxes for a $1 million commercial property of nearly $1,000 next year, bringing the county portion of the real estate bill to about $7,500.