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Should city impose fees on tax-exempt properties?

There's a possible source of revenue for the city of Alexandria that's massive but remains untapped.

It's tax-exempt property like churches, schools and land owned by government entities and charitable organizations.

Should the city impose fees on those properties?

At Monday night's meeting, city council member Virgil Batesole said the city should "seriously explore" the idea.

"I think we should look into it...what we could collect," he said. "I'm not suggesting we do it but we should know where we stand."

There's a lot of money at stake.

According to the annual city assessor's report from Reed Heidelberger, which triggered Batesole's suggestion, tax-exempt property in the city totaled nearly $290 million in 2012.

The property includes land and buildings owned by schools (22 percent of the total), the county (19 percent), churches (16 percent), the city, charitable organizations and other non-profit groups.

The council didn't take any action on Batesole's suggestion but did request Heidelberger to compare the amount of Alexandria's tax-exempt properties with similar-sized cities.

The council also wants to take a closer look into another issue the assessor's report covered - housing.

In Alexandria, residential and agricultural property make up 62 percent of the city's total estimated market value, $753 million out of $1.2 billion.

Apartments, meanwhile, account for $92 million or 7.6 percent of the total. (Commercial property is the other big contributor of value, accounting for $308 million or 25 percent of total.)

Batesole said he wanted to know if the value of the city's rental property compared to other housing is higher or lower to other similar-sized cities. He said the issue is important because the city has been giving tax increment financing for apartment projects that are targeted for low-income families.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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