Show me your property tax statement

The state has big surplus, so naturally there is a debate on whether to spend it or return it to taxpayers (or put it aside for the next economic disaster on the horizon).

Much of that debate, since it’s being waged by politicians, has to do with whether property taxes have fallen as promised by the DFL last year. It’s a fun — and academic — debate to watch unfold as both sides perform definition gymnastics to frame the numbers in a way that benefits them.

The Revenue Department, MPR’s Tom Scheck reported, insists that overall property taxes have dropped. Republicans have countered that the drop isn’t nearly as dramatic as they were led to believe it would be.

On TPT’s Alamanac last night, both sides debated their logic.

Me? Straight cash, homey (*). I’m either paying more in property taxes this year or I’m not and nothing else much matters. It’s not that complicated.

We suggest that everyone involved in this debate — everyone who has something to say — show their property tax statement. If you’re itemizing deductions, it can’t be a hard form to find.

I’ll go first:

The value of my home increased from $185,800 to $192,100 in 2014, an indication that people in charge of assessing property in Washington County were out the day the math teacher explained rounding up/down large numbers.

The homestead exclusion, which nobody understands, dropped from $20,500 to $20,000, leaving the taxable value of the mansion at $172,100.

The county tax — and my county has been very good at keeping the tax levy flat over the last few years – increased from $572.18 to $576.43.

The city tax went from $702.10 to $703.77.

Neither of those, of course, constitutes a reduction in property taxes.

The school portion, however, dropped from $821.41 to $555.94, probably because some voter-approved levies, expired. Which ones, I don’t know, because once we approve those referenda, no human can keep track of where it went.

However, the notice sent out does not include the referendum questions on last November’s ballot, two of three of which voters approved. If that wipes out the reduction in property taxes, it’s nobody’s fault but ours. We have a thing about educating kids in my school district.

“Other local levies” in the school budget jumped from $268.05 to $375.62.

The Metropolitan Council assessment went from $54.89 to $53.54.

“Other special taxing districts” increased from $40.59 to $42.70. Maybe that includes the $1900 for the street repaving in my neighborhood which I was assessed and chose to pay over 15 years. I don’t know and it doesn’t say. Regardless, the assessment will outlast the drivability of the street; that much is clear.

So the total tax bill for 2014 dropped 6.1% from 2013 — from $2459.22 to $2308.00.

It’s also a drop from 2012, when I paid $2642 in property taxes. That’s a 12 percent drop in property taxes over two years.

Now, it’s true there are all sorts of reasons that the bottom line of a tax bill can drop beyond the definitions politicians use to describe property taxes. But for me and my checkbook, the bottom line is the bottom line.

How about you?