Property taxes and retirees

By Board Member Bruce Yernberg

I truly believed that when I retired, I had calculated my financial future. But 16 years later, how wrong I was! I didn’t know what a burden property taxes would be for homeowners like me who are retired and living on fixed incomes.

I happen to live in the county that has the 8th highest property taxes in Minnesota. Of course, that is hard to figure out because each of the 87 counties in Minnesota has their own way of calculating the amount of property taxes retirees pay. Our great state of Minnesota allows each county to determine the amount they charge homeowners by using approved State endorsed formulas involving classification and valuation of property. It is complicated.

The cities, counties, school districts etc. are all in it together. If the school district can’t raise enough money, and their efforts to pass bond issues and levies fail, they manipulate the county into raising your home’s taxable value.

Another scam with property taxes is the rebate. Some people get a property tax rebate based on their lack of income. But the rebate is not from the county property taxing authority. It is out of the state’s general fund. So, retirees who pay state income tax are paying themselves back. It is complicated.

I have addressed my city council and my county commissioners in public meetings about the regressive nature of property taxes. I have written letters to newspapers. I contacted my local legislators. One said she doesn’t understand the property tax system; the other said perhaps you should get rid of your ambulances. Both are Republican and campaign on reducing our taxes.

Please understand I am not against paying taxes. I have supported tax increases and the services and jobs they provide all my working life. I have kept my homes up over the years even though every improvement I made was taxed. In retirement I expected to live in reasonable comfort. I did not expect to be gouged by anti-retiree regressive property taxes.

Perhaps we should ask those we chose to represent us what they will do to help retirees survive. Most won’t have an answer. It is complicated.