City backs off huge property tax hike following complaints

Normally, a 40 percent increase in property taxes would send most taxpayers through the roof. But that’s a bargain for Braham taxpayers in comparison to their preliminary taxation notices that proposed a 2023 property tax increase of 144 percent for some homeowners, jacking up the taxes on a $200,000 property from $1,441 to $3,529 overnight.

Soon after the Braham City Council approved the preliminary huge hike in September, city hall began feeling the heat. Not surprisingly, tensions ran high at a city meeting documented by the County News Review a few weeks later.

“I am on a fixed income and we’ve already been hit with about $4,000 a year in inflation. That means my dollar will buy $4,000 less this year than it did last year,” [Braham resident Bob] Danson said.

“My Social Security will not go up enough to cover this (property tax increase). We can only stand so much and then, I’m out, and I like it here. … I’d appreciate it if you guys can keep that in mind, because I know there are a bunch of us in town that are on a fixed income.”

One reason behind the tax levy hike? A 50 percent higher city budget, following three straight years of budget overruns that significantly reduced the city’s budget reserve.

After residents spoke, Council Member Seth Zeltinger expressed his thoughts as to where the city stands now, compared to his job at Frandsen Bank & Trust.

“What I see here is if the bank were ran the way the city had been ran a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have a job,” he said. “If we were 40% over our budget — I don’t think we can ask all of that to the taxpayers. I think we need to take a deep, deep look at every line item on this budget and do right by the people that voted us up here.”

City officials went back to the drawing board, cutting costs and putting new initiatives on hold. They held a town hall meeting to announce a reduction of the proposed increase to about 40 percent, posting the update on the city website.

Since the preliminary tax levy was adopted in September, the Council has worked to reduce the preliminary lax levy through budget reductions and the identification of revenue sources not included in the preliminary levy amount… 

The new proposed property tax levy for the city of Braham is an approximate 40 percent levy increase over 2022. This is primarily due to cost increases for the City in the areas of gas, diesel, health insurance, maintenance materials, etc. Other factors involved in your property taxes is the valuation of your property which is set by the Isanti County Assessor’s Office. The City is not able to make adjustments to your valuation; this can only be handled by Isanti County.

The Braham City Council expects to approve the new tax levy and budget at a truth-in-taxation meeting next week. But WCCO-TV says many residents continue to question why their property taxes will still soar next year.

“I want some answers. I want to know why there’s such a huge increase for a small town like that,” said Thoreen. “We are going to have to cut back on a lot of things. Camping. Going out to eat. A few other activities.”

Braham isn’t alone when it comes to higher taxes, but that’s no comfort to Kitty Haley. A life-long resident, she said she will now have to watch her budget a little more closely.

“I’m gonna have to adapt to try and pay everything off,” said Haley. “It’s a nice place to live. It was. We don’t know if we’re gonna want to stay around anymore if they have the taxes that high.”