Luke Onstad

Luke Onstad is pictured here with his dog. Onstad is the new Houston County Assessor.

Submitted by Luke Onstad

Houston Co. Assessor

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Luke Onstad and I have recently been appointed the Houston County assessor. 

I am a lifelong Houston County resident. I grew up in rural Spring Grove in the Black Hammer area. I spent many hours helping out on my uncle’s dairy farm. I have always had a strong interest in farming and livestock. Over the years I have had a few cattle of my own and continue to plant crops. My previous work experience includes milking and farming for a local dairy farm in Spring Grove, construction, logging and I had my own taxidermy business. 

Currently, I live with my wife and daughter on a 40-acre farm in Black Hammer. For the last four years I have been working in the Assessor’s office. I have worked very hard by attended numerous trainings and classes to become an Accredited Minnesota Assessor. I look forward to representing Houston County as the County Assessor. 

One of my many goals as the assessor is to use my time to help people understand the process of the appraisal system and truly what our office does or our role in the property tax cycle. I look forward to answering questions and keeping the public informed about any changes or plans for reappraisal of cities and townships. 

First and foremost I understand most people just want to know how much their taxes will be, however there are many steps to the process to arrive at that number.  The Assessor’s office is responsible for determining the estimated market value of all property types in Houston County. How we do this involves several steps.  

The first step, is to inspect homes for size, condition, age, type of interior finish, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and garage if applicable. The style and quality, or grade as we call it, plays a role in the value. Once we have gathered all the information we need, we enter that information into our appraisal software program. Our program is based on a cost new with age depreciation then based on sale comparison approach to value. The state of Minnesota as well as several other states in the United States value property using the sale comparison approach. You may ask, how does this work?  

Each year the state of Minnesota conducts a sales study for each county, city, and township. They look at each sale and compare our estimated market value to the price the property sold for. They require that all of the counties, cities and townships to be within 90% to 105% with their values of property compared to that of what similar properties sell for in their study. 

The most common question we receive is “How can my property value increase or decrease when I haven’t done anything to it?” The answer is because of the sales studies that occur each year. 

Here is an example: Say six houses sold in your city or township inthe last year. The state will look at those sales and compare our estimated value on those six homes to the sales price of those six homes. They will array the percentage from those comparisons and take the median (middle) percentage. 

Say that percentage was 80% for that particular city or township. In this case, the state would require by law for the assessor to issue a minimum increase to that city or township of 10% to all property.  

I understand that most people’s first reaction is this doesn’t sound fair, however it is state law. This is why it is so important to view and inspect properties and gather as much information as we can to keep each property value accurate. 

We recognize each property is unique in its own way, but the state does not look at each property, that is the Assessor’s office job.  Having each property represented accurately is the only way to assure each property owner pays an equal and fair amount of tax compared to value. The only way to do this is view each property as well as visit with property owners. If we are not able to view or visit with property owner’s we are than required by law to make assumptions about the property.We do our best to make fair assumptions but each house is unique in its own way. 

Each year we work to reappraise 25% of our county for this very reason, to make sure we have the most up to date and accurate property details. The areas that will be getting an increase in property values in 2022 based on the sales study from the state are listed below.  The increase will be issued to buildings only.  

By issuing the increase to buildings only the land will help to cushion some of the increase to a property’s overall estimated market value. Meaning the building value will increase by the percent of increase but the property’s total value will not be that same percentage. The areas and increases for 2022 building values required from the state sales study are.

These increases are again based on the states sales study and are required by the state. 

Spring Grove City – 15%

Brownsville City – 14%

Houston City – 17%

Money Creek – 20%

Hokah Twp – 11%

La Crescent Twp – 11%

Caledonia Twp – 5%

Houston Twp – 5%

Mound Prairie Twp – 5%

Eitzen City – 5%

The state requires all are values to be set by January 2nd of each year. These values are sent to the County Auditor to determine the tax rate for each city and township.  

What determines the tax rate?  The tax rate is determined by taking the money needed or requested by your city, township, school district and the county.  The auditor/treasure then takes the total amount of money needed and divides that by the assessor’s total estimated market value for each city and township to determine the rate for each.  The estimated market value of your property determines the amount of tax you owe.  

The state has very strict laws on the date property values have to be set each year and when and what type of changes can be made at certain times.  

The only changes that are allowed for the following year’s values without board approval after January 2nd are things such as: measuring errors, entry errors into system, and lost homestead if property indeed qualifies. 

The general rule for changes is: if you can measure it and prove the change it can be changed. Most people do not realize our values for the following year are set on January 2nd of each year. What this means is the values we just set in January 2021 are the values 2022 taxes will be based off of. Each spring when you receive your tax statement included will be the valuation notice for the values set on January 2nd this is the value that next year’s taxes will be based on.  

The state has strict timelines on when and how to appeal your estimated market value and when to question the tax rate or amount of tax. On your valuation notices that you will receive in the beginning of April with your tax statement this year it will list the time and date of your city or township’s meeting.

If you feel the estimated market value on your valuation notice is wrong or incorrect, (meaning your house would not sell for that on the open market when advertised to the public) the first step is to call the assessor’s office to go over the value.  The second step, is to attend the local board meeting for your city or township.  The time and date is listed on the notice.  Some cities and townships do not have meetings and these are called open book.  That means our office is the place to call.  The third step, is to attend the county board of appeals meeting in June that is printed on the notice as well.  

This year, the county board will be held on June 15 at 6 p.m.  It is required by the state that a person follow the steps in order for appeals. Step one: call the assessor’s office, step two: attend your local board meeting (if your township or city has one), and step three: attend the county board in June. The April meetings are for value questions only, not appeals. Another change the county has been required to make is the implementation of pasture land in our rural areas. This change will be taking place over the next 2 year. You may or may not see this change on your valuation statement this spring. Most everyone will see this change by next spring’s notices.  

In summary, here is what to look for when you receive your 2021 tax statement and 2022 valuation notice this spring. First, the statement and notice will come in the same envelope so be sure to locate both of them. Don’t be alarmed if your property taxes are paid through escrow. You will receive a statement but your escrow is still intact. Second, look over your valuation notice. If you are in an area that received an increase you will see the change in value. If you are an area that received the pasture change you will see that as well.  

Make sure to look and the class of your property and if it has changed and you feel it shouldn’t have been be sure to call the assessor’s office. If your property is homestead be sure homestead it is stated on the statement. 

A quick note on homestead credit: the higher your home value, the lower the credit.  Homestead credit is designed to cancel itself out once a home’s value reaches $418,000. So if your home value increase the homestead credit will decrease. Be sure to make note of your city or township’s local board meetings if you plan to attend. 

Also a reminder, both your tax statement and valuation notice will appear on the Beacon Schneider website. Remember the valuation statement represents the value a property would sell for if advertised and sold. Please call the assessor’s office at 507-725-5801 with any value or classification questions! 

Commonly Asked Questions

1. WHEN DOES MY STATEMENT COME IN THE MAIL? Statements are mailed by March 31st of each year.

2. DOES MY TAX STATEMENT AND VALUATION NOTICE COME TOGETHER? Yes, it comes in the same envelope.

3. WHEN ARE MY TAXES DUE?  1ST half is due May 15th and 2nd half is due October 15th if you have Commercial, Residential or Seasonal property. Second half for Agricultural property is due on November 15th. The due dates are listed on each stub so they can be easily reviewed. 

4. WHAT IF I HAVE AN ESCROW WITH THE BANK? You will still receive a Tax Statement (it will note that an escrow may be paying your property taxes)  

5. WHAT DO I LOOK FOR ON MY VALUATION NOTICE? Review the value of your property.  Is it correct? Was there a change made in your area in home or property sales? Do you have pastureland on your property? If so, this could change the value.

6. IS MY CLASSIFICATION CORRECT? You should be able to see on your statement if you are classified as homestead or non-homestead. This can make a significant difference in your property taxes. Please note: The higher the value is on your home, the lower your homestead exclusion will be. If the value of your home increases, your homestead exclusion will decrease. Please call the Assessor’s office if you have any questions regard your property values. (507-725-5801)

7. WHAT IF I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH MY VALUES? Follow the THREE STEP PROCESS to appeal listed above and mark your calendar to attend the meetings listed on your Valuation Notice!

8. WHAT IF I DO NOT RECEIVE MY STATEMENT?  You may have in incorrect address listed on the County records if you recently moved or you may have signed up to receive E-Notices. Call the Auditor-Treasurer’s office if you have any questions. (507-725-5815)

9. WHAT IF I MISPLACE MY STATEMENT? Go to website: beacon.schneidercorp.com. The Tax Statement and Valuation Notice can be found near the bottom of the page. Both can be easily printed. Your name or parcel ID number can be used to perform the search. 

10. HOW DO I PAY MY TAXES? Place in drop-box by West Entrance at the Historic Courthouse Building, in person, by postal mail or go online: https//www.co.houston.mn.us. Other drop off locations include Merchants Bank, ESB Banking, or Bremer Bank. **PLEASE ENSURE TAX STUBS ACCOMPANY YOUR TAX PAYMENT(S).

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