New assessment notices explained to supervisors

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL

The 2018 assessment notices were on the agenda for the supervisors meeting Tuesday morning.

Supervisor and board chairman Abe Miller said he asked Washington County assessor Christy Tinnes to explain what happened with the 2018 tax assessments.

The tax assessments were sent out right before April 1, Tinnes said. Your residential property is only supposed to be at market value. However, AG assessments aren?t done at market value. The house should be at market value, but the rest of the property is assessed with an AG formula.

?We did have Vanguard Appraisals from Cedar Rapids perform a rural residential re-evaluation for us for this assessment year,? Tinnes said. ?The key to getting assessed values correct is having properties listed correctly, and in the cities we have permits that we collect from the cities to help keep track of new construction and we send out construction postcards every fall asking people to report changes, so those construction postcards are the only method we really have for keeping up on construction changes out in the country since we don?t have a permitting system out there.?

It had been a long time since rural residential properties were reviewed, so a lister came around to make sure things were listed correctly, she added.

Information was sent out to rural residents in 2016 advising them someone would be out looking at their property. The lister looked at type of construction, type of interior finish, physical condition of the property, and the age of the structures, and took measurements and used sales analysis, local construction costs and economic conditions to come up with the market value, Tinnes said.

?Basically, especially on a re-evaluation we try to stress to people, if they feel it?s incorrect, to call us and we can go over it with you,? she said. ?We can review the listing, make sure it?s correct and do an inspection.?

If your property value went up and you want an explanation the best way to explain why is for them to pull up the property valuation in the assessor?s office to go over it with you, Tinnes said.

?Our goal is to have things listed correctly and get the value accurate,? she said. ?We don?t want it too high just as much as we don?t want it too low.?

If the assessor?s office is off on the value, that?s when the state comes in and tells the assessor?s office what the values are, which would affect everyone. Their goal is to avoid having the state coming in to do this.

?We have a lot of buildings out in the county that had maybe been there for many years that were not being valued,? Tinnes said. ?They weren?t being reported.?

A lot of the postcards being sent out are returned to the assessor?s office, but there are a few people who choose not to report construction on their property, she added.

Miller asked Tinnes what percentage they try to get done when re-evaluating properties. Tinnes said the contract with Vanguard said 75 percent. They would make two attempts with the property owners to do an assessment while they?re at home.

For AG properties, Vanguard looked at the listing at the assessor?s office to make sure it looked right and there weren?t any new additions, she added.

?You said that it had been quite some time since rural residences had been valued,? supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said. ?How long are you talking about??

?I?m going to say early 2000s, since we?ve done a whole review of them,? Tinnes replied.

AG dwellings were done then when the listers went to the properties and remeasured them, she added. She asked for the re-evaluation in 2013, but had to wait until 2018 for it to be done.

?Do you think a full evaluation like this should be done every 10 years or do you think it would be good to use our own staff and do a certain part of the county or a certain township as time goes on?? Seward asked Tinnes.

There is only one full-time appraiser at the assessor?s office, Tinnes replied. If they could do door to door every 10 years that would be great. The state code says every six years or based on the assessors department abilities. Instead of paying Vanguard, adding a few more appraisers would help them get to every door every six years.

?Do most contested cases get re-evaluated as far as up or down or do most of them come out the same?? Miller asked Tinnes.

Right now, is the informal review time from April 2 to April 25, Tinnes replied. They encourage property owners to let the assessor?s come to their house and do an inspection and review the listing information.

?I would say on most of them they?re ones that Vanguard didn?t catch people at home,? Tinnes added. ?They didn?t return the door hanger or get online and fill out their information, so the valuation is estimated based on the outside and any details on our prior notes of what we have listed, so it?s pretty typical if it?s an estimation of value to go to the property and find things that need to be adjusted and corrected.?

By the time everything is listed correctly, some assessments are lowered, she said. If the property owner feels it?s still too high then they can go to the Board of Review ? they have the power to adjust the assessments.