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County Board drops proposed tax hike

After a failed motion to increase its 2015 levy 2 percent, the McLeod County Board voted Tuesday morning for a 0 percent increase.
A 2 percent increase would have raised an additional $365,872 in 2015, which Board Chair Paul Wright said would have been tagged for implementing the results of a salary compensation study that is currently under way.
But commissioners Ron Shimanski and Jon Christensen argued against the proposed increase, citing the current farm economy.
Shimanski said that favorable crops prices of a couple of years ago drove up ag land values. Those higher land values resulted in higher property taxes because the tax burden is based on valuations.
“A substantial portion of this levy would be shifted to ag land,” said Shimanski.
But 2014 brought a dramatically different farm scenario, Shimanski said — a poor, wet spring meant that many farmers planted late or didn’t plant at all. And crop prices have nosedived, he added.
“A lot of farmers I’ve talked to are lowering their rents by 15 percent because of the poor crops and falling commodity prices,” said Shimanski, which means landowners will have less revenue with which to pay the increasing property taxes on their land.
Shimanski also pointed out that the recession held down values on commercial and residential property, while farmland values increased.
Wright pointed out that the county has not raised its levy in several years.
As a farmer, he said, he understands the concerns, “but we didn’t raise the levy when corn was $7 a bushel.” Wright said the commissioners needed to decide its levy based on the needs of the county, not on the economy.

For more, see the Dec. 17 print edition of The Chronicle.