County to seek input on rural assessor costs

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mower County is exploring whether to hire assessors on its own or continue to let cities and townships deal with assessors on an individual basis.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners approved a letter Tuesday to all 20 townships seeking input on how they would like to proceed with paying and hiring assessors. The move comes after 14 townships approached county officials earlier this year with concerns after their assessors gave notice to quit the job.

The county has several options, according to County Coordinator Craig Oscarson. The county could let townships deal with assessors as the need arises, or they could contract with individual townships to provide assessors, similar to what county staff does with the city of Austin.

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A third option would be to take over assessment duties for all cities and townships. The “true county” option is what nearby counties like Freeborn and Fillmore do, and would mean the county assumes the costs of an assessor. That also means cities and townships could technically decrease assessment costs from their levies, as the assessment costs would be levied onto residents through the county instead.

The true county system would be phased in over a three-year period, resulting in the county taking over assessor costs in 2019. Oscarson said the county would be able to offset the cost of an assessor by contracting with the 14 townships and would likely afford one full-time and one part-time assessor under the true county system.

Assessor costs are a point of interest for counties after the Minnesota Legislature strengthened assessor certification requirements last year. Those new regulations make it harder to find assessors, according to County Commissioner Jerry Reinartz.