Terra Springs sees big tax hike

Commissioner Gary Kriesel
Commissioner Gary Kriesel

City, county officials blame error, plan meetings with complex residents

City and county officials will sit down with residents of a downtown Stillwater condominium complex to discuss and find a solution to a dramatic increase complex residents saw in their property taxes.

Terra Springs Homeowners Association representative Tom Lindeen said complex residents recently received a letter telling them that effective immediately their property taxes would increase 25 percent and the time for appeals had passed. He added that Terra Springs residents were unaware of the letter going to other condominiums such as The Mills and The Lofts, and they wondered how their minimum assessment clause figured in the increase.

“They (the officials) have agreed to sit down with us and level the playing field, which we appreciate,” Lindeen said.

Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel said the increase occurred because in 2009, Terra Springs property values dropped below acceptable levels leading to the increase that was not caught by the county’s Property Records and Taxpayer Services Department.

“What happened is when Terra Springs was built, they used TIF money to fund it.” said Ward 1 Councilman Ted Kozlowski. “TIF money has to be paid back and it’s paid back through property taxes. No one expects their property value to decrease, so when the property value dropped below a certain value, property taxes appear to increase at a high rate. It’s not something that happens usually, and the county didn’t catch it.”

“The county will make whole the loss of the revenue, and the city will be reimbursed this cost,” Kriesel added.

Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki promised the residents at Tuesday night’s council meeting that the city attorney and staff would be available to discuss points that needed to be addressed about this issue. Kozlowski also agreed to be at this meeting. County Commissioner Gary Kriesel added that he and his staff, including PRTS Director Jennifer Wagenius, would be available as soon as possible as well.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before and it seems as though the county is making concessions already, so we’ll see what happens,” Harycki said.

Also at the meeting, the council unanimously:

  •  Approved the new platting boundaries for the Stillwater Parking Garage and Lowell Inn to simplify title and encroachment issues that have occurred.
  •  Approved the reading of the ordinance regarding Special Use Permits. The Planning Commission will be able to refer permits to the council at their option.
  •  Approved the new ordinance regarding background checks for positions and licensing.
  •  Approved this year’s proposed fines and fees. Most fees are the same as last year. Though Ward 4 Councilmember Mike Polehna had asked about possibly considering changing the cost for commercial use fees in the future as the price,in his opinion, is relatively low.
  •  Approved the appointment of former council member Jim Roush as an alternate to the Joint Cable Commission.