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Township finance report released by state auditor

State Auditor Rebecca Otto released the Minnesota Town Finances Report. It is a comprehensive report on revenues, expenditures and debt for Minnesota's towns which analyzes the financial operations of the 1,788 towns in Minnesota for the calendar year ended December 31, 2007.

In 2007, there were 1,788 towns compared to 854 cities and 87 counties.

The 2007 population estimates from the state demographer show that 945,499 individuals reside in towns, representing about 18.0 percent of the state population. Town populations range from 11,802 in the town of White Bear to 7 in the town of Hangaard. Fifty-one percent of towns have a population of 300 or less.

Highlights from the report include current and five-year trends:

--In 2007, Minnesota towns reported total revenue of $242.3 million.

This amount represents a 2.3 percent increase over the total revenue reported in 2006 and a 15.1 percent increase since 2003.

-- Minnesota towns reported total expenditures of $242.8 million in 2007. This amount represents a decrease of 0.7 percent from the amount reported in 2006. Over the five-year period of 2003 to 2007, town expenditures have increased 20.7 percent

--Interest earnings increased 22.0 percent between 2006 and 2007. Revenues derived from interest earnings grew 119.1 percent between 2003 and 2007. This was the largest increase for any category of town revenues. This rapid growth resulted in the share of revenues derived from interest earnings growing from 1.5 percent in 2003 to 3.0 percent in 2007.

-- Outstanding bonded indebtedness totaled $51.8 million in 2007, an increase of 15.2 percent over the $44.9 million outstanding in 2006.

Other long-term debt increased by 6.9 percent from 2006 to 2007 to total $33.4 million. In addition, towns reported $1.2 million in short-term indebtedness in 2007, an increase from the $771,146 reported in 2006.

Ten-year trends

-- Since 2001, total revenues in constant dollars have been declining, now totaling less than in 1999.

-- Since 1998, the share of total revenue from taxes increased by 34.8 percent, while the share of total revenue from intergovernmental revenues decreased by 49.1 percent.

For the complete report, which includes an executive summary and graphs, go to:

East Otter Tail area townships profiled

By Louis Hoglund

East Otter Tail area townships are listed at right, including population estimates and 2007 revenues and expenses.

The first column lists the population of each township.

Second column: Area township expenses

The second column lists the township's total expenses in 2007. Road and bridge expenses are the highest expense category for nearly all townships. For example, Pine Lake Township, which surrounds most of Big Pine Lake, spent $263,570 in its road and bridge budget. Hobart, which is nearly half water--containing Rose Lake and Long Lake east of Vergas, spent $206,681 on roads and bridges. This compares to as little as $26,983 in Maplewood Township; and $23,040 in Amor Township.

Perham spent $66,553 on roads and bridges. In the New York Mills area, Homestead's road and bridge expenses were $36,668 and Newton spent $42,090 on roads.

Third column: Tax capacity reflects property value

Tax capacity is valuation of property within the township, based on market values and class rates. Tax capacity is a reflection of the market value within the township--though not a total representation. For example, tax capacity on ag property is lower than that on recreational lake property. Property classes include non-homestead residential, homestead residential, commercial and agricultural--each of them with a different class rate, which is calculated with the property value to determine tax capacity.

Dunn Township, which includes much of Pelican Lake's high-valued lakeshore, has a tax capacity of $3.6 million (see listing). Hobart, Ottertail, Rush, Amor, Dora and Edna all have tax capacities that exceed $1 million. Meanwhile, rural townships dominated by ag property have lower tax capacities, such as: Newton, $440,260; Homestead, $226,777; Deer Creek, $222,346; Butler, $199,105; and Blowers, $188,900.

Fourth column: Total township revenue

Total revenues vary widely from township to township, and the majority of township revenue is generated from property taxes.

Some townships have revenue sources through special assessments, such as Dead Lake, $36,423; Dora, $21,762; Ottertail, $18,792; and Pine Lake, $16,700.