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October 19, 2019

9/12/2019 3:24:00 PM
Tax court decision on natural gas company appeal cost-share called for

Chisago County will be sending a bill to townships, cities, school districts and other taxing jurisdictions requesting a share of a substantial property tax refund,  the county paid to Northern Natural Gas Company.  Depending on locations of gas service and distribution structures and equipment --some aparts of Chisago County will be contributing large sums.  Deputy County Auditor Bridgitte Konrad told the Press she let officials know this is going to be a “significant” amount of money.

Konrad explains it was decided to be in the taxpayers’ overall best interests to pay the court ordered refund swiftly, avoiding extra costs of growing interest.  The total of the refund is $292,113 for tax years payable 2016 and 2017.  She added that the estimates for the over-collection for 2018 and 2019 are still being worked out.
There are more than 30 parcels Northern Natural Gas owns that are involved.

The county still has to rely on state valuations for the taxable assets, which is somewhat ironic because this valuation method was where the process fell apart, in the four years of appealed gas company tax the court ruled on.

Refunds ordered statewide came to $17 million.  Chisago County was listed in the top 10 counties owing refunds.
A law that would have dictated that  the state pay this specific type of refund, based on incorrect state valuation, was floated in the last legislative session in St Paul (HF 424)  but it didn’t pass.

Minnesota Tax Court ruled the Department of Revenue over-valued Northern Natural Gas Company  assets by 24 percent in 2015 and by 33 percent in 2016.  
Chisago County has paid Northern Natural about $290,000 for the first two years the refund order covers.

In testimony on HF 424 last winter (transcriptions are on-line)  Northern Natural Gas Property Tax Manager Joann Wright,  said Northern does not routinely challenge state appraisals.  She said in the 16 years that she’s worked there this was the first time that Northern lodged an appeal against assessed valuation.  
The gas company, “...felt the methodology was so patently unfair that Northern was compelled to challenge the valuation” she testified according to documents from the committee hearing.  
The tax court affirmed in its decision in January 2019 that the company’s belief in unfairness of methodology was supportable.

The largest county refund is tied to Northern Natural structures and equipment in  Dakota County;  followed by Rice, Freeborn, Carlton, Steele, Hennepin, Washington, St Louis, Chisago and Carver.

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