by Bob Grawey
Hassan residents have a chance to write their own history by attending the township’s annual meeting to decide the tax levy for the following year.
The annual meeting is the one occasion each year where Minnesota mandates town supervisors and city staff step aside in order for residents to conduct town business.
Since 2007 that levy has remained flat. Even years where town supervisors attempted to raise the levy, residents prevailed in keeping it exactly the same as the previous year.
But things are different this year. It is the last year residents will set Hassan’s levy, as the township is scheduled to dissolve into a final merger with Rogers in 2012.
Through posturing, heated arguments and passed resolutions, the merger of Hassan and Rogers is at the doorstep of all who live in both communities.
Hassan residents, though — those who hear and attend the Hassan annual meeting Sept. 6 – will decide just how that will happen.
Rogers officials have agreed to Hassan requests, which include:
•a gradual four-year tax increase from Hassan residents to avoid getting hit all at one time with Rogers’ higher tax rates.
•moving the merger date from Jan. 1, 2012, to July 1, 2012, to give Hassan residents representation of their interests in 2012 before the next election. That time frame would also allow Hassan residents to file for any Rogers elected office.
•allowing Hassan Town Board supervisors to sit in on Rogers City Council meetings in 2012 from July through September as an advisory body on any Hassan-related agenda items. It would be in a non-voting capacity.
•retaining both Hassan employees through 2012.
These hinge, however, on the residents of Hassan setting the annual levy for 2012 to at least 95 percent of the 2011 levy amount.
Without that 95 percent levy amount in place, those points of agreement between Rogers and Hassan are void, according to Rogers City Council stipulations.
It is a concern to Rogers officials, as some Hassan residents would like to “zero” out the 2012 levy in order to give township residents a tax rebate.
Enough money would be levied to pay township bond debts, but it would leave Rogers without funds to pay for services to Hassan residents.
At a recent open house all these options and scenarios were discussed.
In setting a 2012 levy to zero or near zero, residents in Hassan would likely see a 20 percent reduction in their tax bill, according to Hassan Town Administrator Bill Craig.
Hassan residents with mortgages would receive refund checks from their lenders, as escrows would be over-funded for the required property tax payments in 2012. However, in 2013, when Hassan residents would fully realize Rogers’ higher tax rates, lenders would ask for a large hunk of money from a homeowner to make up the underfunded escrow account.
Craig says that amount could easily be over $1,000. If that lump sum was not paid, the property owner would then have that added to a mortgage payment which would suddenly spike that house payment.
If the lump sum was added to the monthly house payment, it would be as a special assessment, Craig says, and not subject to a tax deduction.
Should Hassan residents decide to “zero” out the levy for 2012, it does not mean Rogers will not respond by charging special fees to their Hassan residents for services. And it does not mean Rogers will not raise property taxes to recoup the lost funding in a Hassan tax rebate.
Those are all unknown factors, though.
In the meantime, Rogers officials are watching the township’s annual meeting closely.
Craig says it’s important that as many Hassan residents as possible show up for the annual meeting.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Craig says. “The town meeting on Sept. 6 will have important consequences. If you do not attend, someone else will decide the consequences that will apply to you.”
The Tuesday, Sept. 6 annual meeting will be held at the old town hall starting at 7 p.m.
by Bob Grawey