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Missing data muddies property tax estimate

Property tax rates are expected to rise in the Dickinson School District. Stock photo

While property tax rates in the Dickinson Public School District are expected to increase, they will not be increasing as dramatically as some residents may have been led to believe. A missing part of an equation resulted in the appearance of a 8 percent tax increase to people paying property taxes to the district, while the actual increase is much lower.

"Unfortunately, there was a mix-up on the estimated property tax. There's taxable property in Dunn County that also needs to be a part of the calculation and that was left out," Business Manager Kent Anderson said at a sparsely-attended public hearing regarding the school budget, the first order of business being to clarify the issue. "When those notices went out ... they showed an increase of 8.3 percent mills and a total dollar increase of $600,000. So a pretty big difference to what had been presented to the board, what we had talked about ... the good news is ... this was just a preliminary estimated property tax notice, the school isn't obligated to it."

Indeed, Anderson said that this confusion should be corrected before tax bills start going out. The actual increase in taxes is around 3.6 percent — this would translate to about a $17 increase to the tax rate of a $100,000 property.

These tax values are impacted by the overall taxable valuation of the City of Dickinson, which has been on the decline over the past two years. This decline, however, largely impacts commercial real estate tax valuations — commercial properties have declined over 10 percent in tax valuation while residential properties have declined less than one.

"We have had two back to back years of decreasing taxable valuation. The result is ... that the overall dollars that we're asking for from the taxpayer is actually less," Anderson said. "It's just unfortunate because it was incorrect."

Following the meeting, Anderson elaborated more on the details of what happened.

"Basically the estimated property tax notice is based on information the county auditor gets from the parks and the city and the school ... when that information was entered, the taxable valuation for Dunn County was not included," he said. "That's a big impact for us. If you're trying to generate the same number of dollars with less taxable valuation, your number is higher."

The Stark County Auditor's office declined to comment.

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