June 22, 2016

Property assessments questioned during tax equalization meeting

By Annette Tait
With the rare exception of tax reform, the most frequent trend for taxes is to increase. Unfortunately, it’s too early for Oliver County residents to know which direction their tax burdens will take in the coming tax year.
The county board of equalization meeting is just a part of the picture, which won’t become clear until this fall when information from the state, and from local government and school district budgets, becomes available.
In an effort to explain the process, property assessor Steve Olson began the Oliver County tax equalization meeting with an overview. There were about 41 properties in the county that were assessed in the past year, in accordance with state requirements.
“The county has to do a sales ratio study each year. If the state doesn’t approve, adjustments need to be made,” Olson said, noting that a full assessment is needed to bring the county within state-required thresholds. “Presently, values [in the county] are at about 85 percent; however, that will change when the City of Center’s full reassessment is included.”
The county’s assessment ratio includes all properties that lie within the county, including those in the city of Center.
Olson explained that the city’s property valuations increased approximately 25 percent overall when the full reassessment was conducted. Some properties’ valuations were reduced; others, particularly those that hadn’t been assessed in quite some time, increased. Some increases were substantial.
The changes in valuations were not unusual under the circumstances, as it is common practice for cities and counties to use a percentage basis for annual property valuation increases. Unfortunately, this method is not as accurate as using a schedule that reassesses all properties on a multi-year rotation. The rotation method was suggested to the city by Vanguard Appraisals, which recently completed the city’s reassessments.
Regardless of whether individual valuations increased, decreased, or remained level, the total updated figure will affect the overall valuation percentage for the county. All figures will be submitted to the state for approval.
“Vanguard will be coming in next year to assess all of the properties in the county,” Olson added, noting that the full reassessment of county properties is also needed to satisfy state requirements.
Even with Olson’s explanation, one attendee asked, “Why did you just pick on me?” Others in the room nodded their heads in agreement.
Tax Director Teri Schulte fielded the hard-ball question, explaining how the selection process works. The county is required to assess a percentage of properties each year. Sale of a property, new construction, changes in exemption status, and/or several other factors increase the likelihood the property will be visited.

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