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Tax Askings, Allocations Explained

How The Pie Slices

August 7, 2014
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

While nearly everyone considers taxes a necessary evil, many are not totally sure just how the county's tax assessment dollars are assigned and spent. The annual explanation of the tax asking and percentage of allocations was presented to the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in the weekly meeting Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Palo Alto County Auditor Carmen Moser and County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker presented the board members with the annual breakdown of the tax asking and the allocation percentage for all of the entities that receive tax dollars during the county's fiscal year.

In presenting the tax levy and valuation of January 1, 2013, payable in the fiscal year of 2014-2015, Moser noted the amount for the current fiscal year is $18,541,111.39, which is some $38,998.70 less than the previous year.

Article Photos

HE?TAX?PIE - This pie chart represents the total amount of tax dollars raised through the annual tax levy and how the levy is divided by the various entities that receive tax dollars.
- source: Palo Alto County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker

While the county acts as the overall taxing agency, sending out the tax statement, the county itself does not receive the lion's share of tax dollars.

Presenting pie charts to the supervisors, Hilfiker noted that the tax asking has to be spread out to the 10 areas that are entitled to receive tax revenues from the county tax asking.

For the current fiscal year,

While the county's share of the tax asking totals $6,471,887.37, or 35 percent of the taxes, the tax askings of the eight school districts with land inside the county amounts to $7,149,641.66, or 39 percent of the tax asking.

The next largest portion of the tax asking is directed towards the corporations, or towns located in the county. A total of $2,617,760.09 goes to the towns, or 14 percent of the budget dollar.

The Palo Alto County Hospital receives 7 percent of the tax asking, totalling 1,274,686.59 for the four biggest portions of the tax pie.

Other entities that line up for a share of the tax dollar include the Area colleges, the County Assessor, All 16 of the Townships, Agricultural extension services, Special askings, such as the Lost Island Sanitary Sewer District, Graettinger and Ringsted Benefitted Fire Districts and Ambulance services and the state-mandated Brucellosis and TB Fund.

In other items of business from Tuesday's meeting, Auditor Moser asked the board to consider placing a question on the November ballots regarding the selection of Township Trustees and Clerks in Fairfield, Independence, Silver Lake and West Bend Townships. In those four townships, trustees and clerks appear on the ballot and are voted upon, while the remaining 12 townships fill those positions through appointments by the Board of Supervisors.

"Would there be a savings to the taxpayers to go to appointments, rather than election?"?asked Board Chair Ed Noonan.

"There would be some savings, because it wouldn't require a specific ballot for each of those townships if you appointed those positions," Moser answered. "The law has also changed so that anyone who wants one of those positions only has to fill out an affidavit. They used to have to get five signatures and file with the auditors' office."

After a brief discussion, Supervisor Craig Merrill moved to introduce and approve a resolution to place the question of appointing trustees and clerks instead of election be placed on the November ballot. Supervisor Keith Wirtz offered a second and a roll call vote affirmed the action unanimously.

The supervisors met with Mark Fehr to address a petition for drainage work on Lateral B of Drainage District 61. Several other landowners in the district were also present for the discussion. Another member of the Fehr family had previously approached the board with a proposal to install a private tile in another location in the same district, creating some confusion for both the supervisors and some landowners.

"Do you think the people are more in favor of a study?" asked Supervisor Linus Solberg.

"Probably," was Fehr's response. "If there's not support for this project, I'm not going to do it. I've spoken with Rick Hopper (of Jacobson Westergard and Associates of Estherville) and he did a study on the DD back in 2002. He's got all the preliminary work done."

Supervisor Ron Graettinger agreed, telling the group that to hire a different engineer to conduct a study would cost more than to use the study that was already done by Hopper.

With little other discussion, Graettinger moved to hire Hopper to conduct the study in response to Fehr's petition and report to the board. The motion was approved unanimously by the board to end the discussion.

The board also approved the hiring of Rob Mellon, a native of Gowrie, as the new Conservation Operations Supervisor for the County Conservation Board. Conservation Board Executive Director Mary Barrick introduced Mellon, noting he came to Palo Alto County after working for the Hardin County Conservation Board.

"It's nice to have Rob onboard with us,"?Barrick said. "It's good to have his leadership skills on our team."

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz advised the board that 7.25 miles of paving on the north bypass project have been completed by the contractor, Allied-Manatt's.

"We're shifting them down to the south bypass to start that next week,"?Fantz said. "POET/DSM is having a grand opening on Sept. 3 and we want to have the road ready for them."

"What about the farmers on the north project?" asked Noonan. "I think we should have stayed up there and finished that first."

"In retrospect, we probably should have done the south bypass paving first,"?Fantz said, "but I think this will all work out just fine. We're past the occupied farmsteads on the north side with the mainline paving, and they can continue the hand work up there while moving to the south project."

Fantz noted that Allied-Manatt's has been averaging about a half-mile of paving completed per day of the project.

Fantz also noted that the county will be eligible for additional reimbursement of up to 85 percent from the federal government on the Federal Disaster Declaration after the June rains and flooding, as the county completed quite a bit of debris removal within 30 days of the initial damage, and could receive 80 percent reimbursement if additional debris are removed within 90 days of the incident.

"We have Gary Atherton of Boulton-Menk inspecting our Drainage Districts for damages to be submitted to the government on this,"?Fantz added.



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