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County Board waives, reinstates assessor fee

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners waived the per parcel fee for assessing property at its Tuesday, Dec. 15, meeting.
And then it reinstated the fee after hearing from Donald Albrecht, Penn Township clerk, that he felt the board had acted inappropriately in taking the action.
McLeod County Assessor Sue Schulz brought up the topic during the annual hearing regarding the county fee schedule.
Schulz said she was unsure how the original fee of $10.50 per parcel was set, but said it was inadequate to cover expenses.
The County Board had discussed the topic at a budget workshop the day before the meeting. The Board hoped that waiving the fee would encourage more cities and townships to utilize the county assessor rather than hiring independent assessors.
Commissioner Sheldon Nies voted against the motion to waive the fee, noting that it would take about $150,000 out of the county’s anticipated revenues for 2016.
“You need to realize that we’ll have $150,000 on our plate for 2016,” said Nies.
Board Chair Paul Wright said it was anticipated that the loss revenue would be covered by reserves.
There was some discussion as to whether taxpayers were paying twice toward assessment services because of the county charging a fee.
“Regardless of whether we’re paying through the township, city or the county, we’re paying for it,” said Commissioner Doug Krueger said.
Schulz agreed that residents in city and township jurisdictions that use the county assessor are “paying to their local government as well as to the county.”
Commissioner Joe Nagel said to him, the issue was to create a uniform means of assessing property, rather than the cost.
“To me it’s a fairness issue,” said Nagel. “Why does one part of the county get assessed differently than another?”
Nagel said waiving the fee will encourage all the cities and townships to use a “true county” system of assessing.
Schulz said a handful of the county’s 14 townships and the cities of Silver Lake, Stewart and Biscay all hire their own assessors, rather than using the county assessor.
Albrecht, who arrived at the meeting after the hearing, said during the public comment session of the meeting that he felt he needed to express his “displeasure” at the county’s action.
Albrecht said the fee was not part of the fee schedule that was under debate at the hearing.
“I had no knowledge that the assessor would be in to talk about this issue,” said Albrecht. “And I wonder if it was actually proper and legal to do it this way.”

For more, see the Dec. 23 print edition of The Chronicle.