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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 14 2010

Fargo taxable property values to rise 2.8%

Fargo’s taxable property values will rise 2.8 percent in the 2010 tax year, the lowest increase in years, City Assessor Ben Hushka said Tuesday.

Not including the value of tax-exempt properties, the growth in total taxable valuation for Fargo is more than $323 million in 2010, up from $314 million in 2009, Hushka told the City Commission, which was sitting as the Board of Equalization.

The total appraised value of Fargo property is nearly $8.5 billion, records show.

Residential properties are valued at $3.8 billion, commercial properties at $3.4 billion, agricultural properties at $3 million, and tax-exempt properties (hospitals, schools and government-owned properties) at $1.2 billion.

More than a dozen Fargo residents and companies protested property assessments to the panel Tuesday.

Dan Wentz told commissioners he was appealing the increase in valuation of his North University Drive office building from $183,500 to $253,000, a nearly 40 percent hike.

Swede Stelzer, director of operations for Maintenance Engineering, wanted to appeal the increase of more than 100 percent for the value of two vacant lots next to the South University Drive business.

Lynn Wolff joked that the 14 percent increase in the assessment for his condo at 2524 18th St. S. seemed small by comparison, but it was no less important.

“Fourteen percent, to me, was a lot,” Wolff told the panel. “Most of us are fixed-income people.”

The three were asked to work with the city assessor’s office. For the written protests, the commission kept the assessed values but will have owners work with the staff, Hushka said.

Hushka said Fargo has 30,000 properties that must be assessed.

The residential tax rate in Fargo is 1.6 percent, while the commercial tax rate is 1.8 percent, he said.

For the past nine years, the total mill levy has decreased, and it dropped 16 percent last year, Hushka said.

In the Fargo School District, the mill levy was 455.43 mills for the 2008 tax year, and that dropped to 380.92 mills in the 2009 tax year, Hushka said.

Assessments will be finalized May 3.

Fargo property owners can appeal assessments to the county board of equalization in July, or to the state Board of Equalization in Bismarck in August.

Taxpayers can also file for a tax abatement with the county up to two years after an assessment is made, Hushka said.

Fargo property owners who want their properties assessed or reassessed should call (701) 241-1340.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583