Assessed valuations on the rise

Assessed valuations on the rise by David Lias There's a good chance that Clay County property owners will notice something different about their assessment notices that were mailed from the courthouse this week.

The county's property assessments have gone up.

"We're in the process of sending out our real estate notices," said County Assessor Leonard Rasmussen. "These were sent out on Friday (March 2) and the people should be receiving them by March 5.

"These valuations that we are sending out have been adjusted to get to market value as close as possible," he added.

Rasmussen has no way of knowing whether a citizen who has experienced an increase in property valuation will also end up paying more in property taxes.

His office doesn't determine the amount of property taxes that Clay County citizens pay. Tax amounts are determined by the budgetary needs of local governments, such as school boards, city councils, and the county commission.

"The determinations (of the valuations) have been made by the property that has been selling," Rasmussen said. "It gives us an idea of which way we should be going, and that also includes ag land in the county."

To calculate the needed changes in property valuations,

Rasmussen's office reviewed the prices of property sales in the county, and identified the low, high and median prices.

2000 costs used

The county assessor's office first performed an in-house appraisal of property before making the adjustments in valuations.

Last year, Rasmussen and his staff calculated valuations using building and property costs at 1992 levels.

"So we did bring our costs up," he said. "The costs were brought up to more current times, to 2000 levels. With the cost of bringing the homes up, we showed some increase in valuations."

Rasmussen said a review of real estate sales in the county during the last year shows that homes have been selling at values greater than what they've been assessed at.

"The increase in valuations is one way of bringing them up to market (value)," he said.

Valuations of ag land haven't shown a consistent pattern in the past, Rasmussen added.

"Some went up and some went down (in assessments) due to soil rating changes. Maybe one piece of property could have been assessed too high and one could have been assessed too low prior to the changes, so now we may hopefully be more on an equal pattern in ag land."

Ag land is assessed according to its market value. In two or three years, however, real property designated agricultural may be assessed based on it productivity rather than its market value.

"There is a bill (in the Legislature) that, if approved, would base ag land assessments on productivity," Rasmussen said.

One point that Rasmussen hopes to drive home to real property owners is a lesson, of

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sorts, on how to compare property tax rates from one year to the next.

He knows it's easy to get confused. Property owners traditionally receive two documents from the county early each year: an assessment notice, and a tax statement.

Confusion arises when they notice that the figures on the two documents aren't the same.

Two different figures

"A lot of people are comparing their assessment notices with their tax statements, and those are two different figures," Rasmussen said.

If taxpayers want to get an accurate idea of whether there have been changes in their properties' valuations, they should compare assessment notices from one year to the next, and not compare assessment notices with tax statements.

Another misconception that many taxpayers cling to, Rasmussen said, is that his office determines property tax amounts each year. The assessor's office has no control over taxes, he said. The taxes are based on whatever levies are needed by government entities, such as schools, counties, cities and townships.

One of the most important roles that the assessor's office accomplishes each year is establishing the market value of the various classes of real property in the county.

"What the people have to ask themselves is, is their property worth this (its assessed value) come time for selling," Rasmussen said. "If people feel their property is assessed too high, they do have an appeal process, and the process is explained on the back of the notices that are sent to them."

Owner-occupied property owners also should check to see that their assessment notices includes that designation. That's important, he said, because owner-occupied real estate is levied at a different levy which is lower than other non-ag property.

"If they don't see it on the notice, or if they have any questions about it, they should give us a call," Rasmussen said.

Taxes, assessments differ

The state requires property to be assessed at its full market

value, with the goal of property being taxed at a percentage of that full value.

Last year, taxes on homes or agricultural land payable in the year 2000 were rolled back to 85 percent of full value. Rasmussen and assessors in other counties are still waiting for information they need from the state to make the proper calculations to roll back taxes this year.

"We get another factor that is given to us from the state to do a rollback, and every year this factor does change," Rasmussen said. "Right now, we don't know what that factor will be."

Property owners usually receive their tax statements in January or February, informing them the amount of taxes they must pay before an April deadline to avoid penalty.

Assessment notices are usually sent out the first part of this month. The assessments mailed to Clay County property owners this week are 2001 assessment values payable in the year 2002.

The in-house appraisal of property and the subsequent increase in property valuations, Rasmussen noted, should better equalize the taxation of non-ag and ag property.

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