Mille Lacs County Assessor Daryl Moeller updated the board of commissioners on county assessments during a May 18 work session.

Moeller stated that valuations on lake property in the county have been time adjusted by 11%, so they needed to raise values by 20% to be at market value.

County commissioner Phil Peterson questioned, “Even with the signs going up?”

Moeller responded, “Yes. It’s mainly East Side and Kathio Townships which increased more compared to other areas. It went up 20% on the lake (Mille Lacs). Wahkon didn’t see much of an increase. This was based on sales from last year and are now above 90% for valuation.” East Side Township property valuation as a whole has gone up 11.63% from 2020, and Kathio has increased by 9.46%.

Moeller said that agricultural property was pretty close to market value. “We’re at about 100% and stayed at 100%,” he said. “With the lakeshore properties going up and having pretty big adjustments in Milaca and Princeton, stopping at 93.5% on residential properties was a good spot.”

He said that the assessor’s office doesn’t have any pending court cases with the Walmart in Princeton, referring to the recent court case where Walmart brought the County to court over the store’s valuation. “Walmart was valued at $5.4 million for the 2020 assessment and was revalued to $6.2 million for the 2021 assessment. When Shopko, in North Branch, was decided in tax court to be worth just shy of $6.7 million, I feel Walmart is still undervalued. Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll take us to tax court again,” said Moeller.

Milaca, Princeton and other Mille Lacs County cities

The total 2021 estimated market value for all Mille Lacs County properties is approximately $2.8 billion and includes all real estate, mobile home and personal property parcels, not including tax exempt properties. The total 2021 tax capacity is $26 million, compared to $24.5 million in 2020. Residential property brings in 56.8% of the property tax revenue, agricultural property brings in 18.3%, seasonal property brings in 13.7%, and Commercial/industrial/apartments bring in 11.2%.

Princeton brings in the biggest slice of the pie (see accompanying chart) with 11.74% of the total, and Princeton Township at 9.1% of the total, with South Harbor Township bringing in the next highest percentage at 7.29%.

By city, Milaca’s overall valuation has increased by 6.04%, Princeton by 11.07%, Foreston by 12.24%, Isle by 7.6%, Onamia by 4.91%, Bock by 6.4%, and Pease by 16.9%. Wahkon had a decrease of -1.68%.

Assessment process

As far as the assessment process, Moeller said that the county assessor estimates the value of every property as of January 2 of each year.

“For the 2021 assessment, we analyzed sales that range from October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020,” said Moeller. “When we calculate a sales ratio, we take the assessed market value and divide by the sale price. If the median sales ratio is outside of the required 90%-105%, our office needs to raise value when the ratio is below 90% or lower value when we are over 105%.”

He added that the assessor’s office uses the median ratio because it indicates the middle of the ratios and is not affected by outlier ratios. When the county assessor makes market adjustments to properties, they do so on a mass scale so that similar type properties will be treated the same, he said.

The assessors in the office are also required to physically view each property once every five years. During this time frame, some of the items that they are looking at are quality, square footage, style, age, and amenities of all buildings on a property. “Having accurate information on a property will allow us to make proper adjustments, so that we are as close as possible to market value,” said Moeller.

Moeller added that the county assessor has some degree of flexibility when determining values of properties. “We need to make sure that we are treating everyone as fairly and equitably as possible,” he said. “Similar properties should have similar valuations. And we should be as close to the market value of the property as we can be.”

Moeller said that the office sent out letters to the public, for the areas which we will be physically reviewing, so property owners would know an assessor from the County would be coming around. “We did this last year with good response, so we decided to do it again this year. We’re reviewing questionnaires that are sent back to us … this gives citizens a voice in the assessment process. They want their value to be as accurate as we do,” he added.

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