County questions St. Boni property assessments

By Emily Hedges

If the city of St. Bonifacius has issued you a building permit since 2007, you may be getting a visit from city assessors. According to County Assessor James Atchison, there were irregularities in St. Boni’s 2013 City Assessment, which led to its denial by Hennepin County.
The county decided to take a closer look at St. Boni after recent issues with assessments submitted by the city of Long Lake, which shares the same contract assessor, Mike Schachterle.
“In Long Lake we found significant inequalities in their assessments, which lead us to believe we needed to look at St. Boni,” Atchison said. “We found inconsistent, unfair, inequitable assessments in single-family residence properties.”
Atchison believes that poorly managed records are to blame. He explained that each year assessors calculate improvement amounts based on any new characteristics added to a home’s assessment records. If these characteristics are not taken into account each subsequent year, the assessment reverts to the original characteristics.
“Every year we recalculate from fresh based on the characteristics of a home,” Atchison said.
Council member Shawn Ruotsinoja joined Mayor Rick Weible in questioning why the software would revert back and not carry over. Atchison defended the system, pointing out there are not wide-spread issues.
“It appears to be one contract assessor for the two cities he does,” said Atchison, who added that a software update planned for 2015 will fix some of these issues.
“If the difference in value is not being captured, those that are correctly assessed are picking up more of a tax burden,” Atchison said.
Weible agreed that everyone wants fair assessments, but cautioned that residents might feel that additional assessment visits might be construed as harassment.
“Uniformity and fairness are important,” Atchison said. “I would be more upset if my neighbor’s new edition wasn’t valued and mine was.”
The council will discuss the issue further during a joint work session (open to the public) with Atchison and Schachterle on April 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Boni City Council chambers.
In other business, the council:
• Approved plans and specs, and authorized for advertisement of bids for the 2013 Street Improvement project.
• Received a visit from David Osmek, new state senator serving the residents of St. Boni. Osmek introduced himself to the council and gave a brief overview of his activities, including service on the transportation and public safety committees.