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Mistake may cost taxpayers $55M

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MARSHALL COUNTY, MN (WDAZ)--An apparent error is St. Paul is a 55 million dollar mistake.

But state leaders say it will be up to you to fix it.

This 98 page ruling by a Minnesota Tax Court judge is a sign that a big bill is coming to 13 Northwest Minnesota counties.

“I'm not quite sure yet how we are going to do it,” said Polk County Administrator, Chuck Whiting.

The judge sided with oil giant Enbridge - that the state of Minnesota overtaxed them from 2012-2014.

The company says they are owed in the ballpark of 20 million dollars.

“When you get into multi million dollar numbers that's at a scale more than most counties can manage,” said Whiting.

For at least two of the counties - Red Lake and Clearwater  - they could owe more than they raise annually from all taxpayers.

“It's still not over, this is just one stage of the court action, there will be appeals I believe and drag this on a little longer,” said Marshall County Auditor and Treasurer, Scott Peters.

Across Marshall County - they could be on the hook for 6 million dollars. A quarter of their tax base comes from Enbridge.

“We have enough reserves to come up with our side of it,” siad Peters.

Polk County thinks their bill may be around 1.5 million.

They aren't sure where the cash will come from - but have not ruled out a potential double digit levy increase.

“We will look at every alternative to avoid a large levy increase,” said Whiting.

And with this win Enbridge is going for more.

They are seeking 35 million over the past 3 years.

“The other 3 years that are coming are even more impactful because the percentages they want reduced are even greater than these first 3,” said Whiting.

While county leaders aren't optimistic about the appeal process - they want the state to pay up.

“Polk County and these other countries have no role in setting these values,” said Whiting.

"It shouldn't be the taxpayers here that directly pays that bill, this is a state assessment and we feel the state should be bearing the responsibility and paying their part of this,” said Peters.

The counties plan on keeping their checkbooks out.

They expect other utilities and railroads in Minnesota to question their assessments determined by the Revenue Department.

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