WABASHA — Andru Peters, commander of Wabasha County American Legion and former legislative chair for District 1 of Minnesota, is pushing state government to pass a bill giving 100 percent property-tax relief to posts that own buildings.
He also wants posts of The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout the state to know they can file for a reduction in property taxes under present law.
Posts, to be sure, operate their buildings and business ventures independently of the district, department and national levels of The American Legion and do not have to take advantage of the property tax exemption.
The exemption also applies to buildings belonging to other congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and Amvets.
In May 2017, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the omnibus tax bill with language that provided a 33 percent cut in property taxes, pretty much from a rate of 3 percent to 1 percent of assessed value. The reduction was slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
However, posts largely were unaware of it, as were local governments. Peters said that, in District 1, some units of government were aware of the new law and adhered to it. Some were unaware and would not comply, even when told of the law, he said. Yet others, he added, offered 1 percent but the assessor had valued the property at higher values, negating the tax-cutting intent of the law. The example he gave was that Millville Post 579 experienced a 135 percent increase in assessed value, which impacted its insurance costs, too.
But most local governments were unaware of it. Peters said he inquired among state government agencies. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, indeed, told the Department of Revenue about the new law, but the Department of Revenue, he found, failed to inform the county treasurers of the exemption.
In 2017, Peters had testified on the House and Senate versions of the bill, and he is back in St. Paul again in 2020. Like last time, Peters is operating separately from The American Legion Department of Minnesota because it is a post-level effort.
And like last time, he is working with Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, and Sen. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo. They have crafted two bills. The first exempts posts of all property taxes on buildings they own. The second provides an exemption to building owners who lease to posts. If the post location is in, for example, a strip mall, the exemption would be a percentage of the building equal to the percent of space taken by the post.
If passed, Peters hopes the measure assists posts with keeping community charitable activities that come from their business operations going.
Dettmer is the minority lead on the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division. Anderson chairs the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee.
From Andru Peters: