ABC 6 Investigates The Money Trail: Property Taxes

Created: 05/19/2014 8:03 AM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Our investigation into your tax dollars continues. A big one we pay as homeowners is a property tax. But how much you pay depends on a lot of things; how much your home is worth, and whether your property is designated as agricultural, commercial, or residential.

But classifying properties isn't always easy, and sometimes controversy is stirred up in the process.

Mick Hinrichs has lived in his Olmsted County home for 36 years. His property had always been classified as agricultural, which helps out when paying property taxes because it costs less than residential property.

But back in 2009, he got a letter from the county assessor, Mark Krupski, saying that was going to change.

"We did reclassify some 400 parcels that were ag-classification to residential. And a lot of the reasons was they didn't meet the requirements," said Krupski.

But Hinrichs says he did meet the requirements. Under state law, if you meet one of four exceptions, either exclusively or intensively, you can still be classified as agricultural, regardless of how many acres you own.

Hinrichs says he meets two of those provisions because of his outbuildings, feed he keeps on his property for cattle, as well as his horses. So he went to the county, and asked to be changed back to agricultural.

"They insisted on changing me back. So I went through the appeals process and went to the town board," said Hinrichs.

The case made it all the way to the small claims division of the Minnesota Tax Court. The judge ruled in Hinrichs' favor.

"She reversed Mark Krupski's decision. They had to pay me back my taxes," said Hinrichs.

The county had to pay Hinrichs back-property tax for the difference in tax for three years. He got a check for about $3,500.

"We just accept the judgement of the court," said Krupski.

Krupski says classifying properties like this can be tricky.

"When you get into agricultural property, there are a lot of qualifications, that have to be considered. And this would mainly be on property that is not just readily appearing to be fully agricultural," said Krupski.

As for the other 394 properties that were changed; Hinrichs' says he just hopes the same thing didn't happen to them.

"They might not understand the statute when getting switched from agricultural to residential under the four provisions," said Hinrichs.

Krupski says each of the 395 properties was looked at individually.

Photo: ABC 6 News