Assessments viewed by commissioners

The Haakon County Board of Commissioners met in special session, Tuesday, April 14, first as a board of equalization and later as the board of commission.

Rita Merrill, Haakon County director of equalization, reported to the board the properties in which owners asked for their property to be reassessed. She noted that two from Philip had been taken before the Philip City Council. Tom Swift had opposed his valuation and Merrill noted that she had reassessed it and Swift had agreed with the new valuation.

A second opposed valuation was by Ron and Trisha Larson. After meeting with the city they met with the commissioners. Merrill noted that other homes in Philip that had been built in recent years, that are comparable in size and cost to the Larsons, are also similar in valuations.

The Larsons noted that because of home values in Philip being low it is hard for homeowners to get loans if they wish to improve their property. And if they improve their property, then the taxes are increased. They noted they understood why their taxes increased but felt that the valuation was too high.

Commissioner Neal Brunskill noted, "An appraisal for a loan is different than an appraisal for tax." "The assessment is a market value," noted Merrill. "In good conscience I feel that it is fair. There are other houses that are probably over built for the area and they are assessed at more." T. Larson stated, "It would be nice to see some incentives to improve their homes." She noted it would be good if the board could see to some kind of tax breaks for home improvements. "When we built we realized we wouldn't get the money out of it, but we did not realize we would see a big increase in taxes," she said. R. Larson added, "We are looking for a reduction to see growth in the community."

Merrill noted that everyone in the county would have to be included in the incentive, not just certain ones, such as in town. She noted that tax breaks are often given to businesses to entice them to build in a town, but she was not aware of any municipality that offered tax breaks to homeowners.

The board opted to not reduce the valuation on the Larson home.

The board approved a mobile home deletion and seven tax freezes for elderly and/or disabled persons. Six of the tax freezes were renewals.

For the town of Midland, Merrill reported that the Midland town board approved a reduction in the assessment for Margie Iwan's residence. Merrill added she reassessed a mobile home for George Stroppel, and he had accepted the new valuation.

Merrill also asked the board to approve a $2.62 abatement of taxes for the Milesville Fire Department, resulting from a clerical error in her office. Also approved was a reclassification for a house belonging to Mark Buchholz.

Haakon County Highway Superintendent Kenneth Neville noted he would be hiring a local contractor to help remove debris from a low water crossing that has reached an emergency situation. The crossing is located on the North Fork on the west edge of Philip.

A decision to crush gravel was tabled until the regular May 5, 2009, commissioner's meeting. Brunskill would still like to look at road and bridge budget figures as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency funds prior to making a decision. He noted that he was concerned with the amount of money the county had already spent in the first quarter of this year. The spending, he noted included highway department radios, the bathroom remodeling, the backhoe attachment request, gravel crushing and the increase in insurance, all of which were not in the 2009 budget. "But that has nothing to do with gravel and FEMA dollars, said Commissioner Nick Konst. Neville added that the gravel would not come out of the general fund, but out of FEMA dollars. Neville also noted that 80 percent of the radios were paid for with a grant. "I'm not saying you can't spend FEMA monies," said Brunskill. "But you have to draw the budget down and have to supplement the budget with FEMA dollars." Konst added that it would be more cost effective to crush gravel and haul it from a nearby pit than to haul it from a pit further away. "It seems to me that we can do this gravel anytime we want. The money is there. If it's FEMA, it shouldn't affect his budget," said Commissioner Gary Snook.

Commissioner Donald Eymer noted that it would be better to crush gravel than proceed with further plumbing remodeling. "I'd rather shut down the courthouse plumbing than run out of gravel."

Neville noted that he would like to know as soon as possible because the contractor would like to line up his season.

Neville updated the board on his meeting with the TransCanada engineer regarding road crossings. He presented a map that showed the possible crossings.

Following a review of the insurance plan options presented by Glenn Parsons, Farm Bureau insurance agent, the board approved a new plan for the county employees.

The board also approved to surplus a list of items that had been in storage in the courthouse basement.