Property valuations alarm some residents

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The @#!%^&* tax man cometh.

At least thatís been the reaction of many Cherokee County property owners after new property valuation assessments arrived in the mail the past few weeks.

After letters were mailed out by the Assessorís Office in August 2016 and explanatory articles detailing the project published in the Chronicle Times in September/October 2016, residents would be hard pressed today to say they didnít see this coming.

However, some property owners being upset with their new appraisals was anticipated by the County Assessorís Office and those with questions or protests regarding the appraosals can contact the Cherokee County Assessor's (Greg Zarr) Office in person at the Courthouse in Cherokee. Mailing address is 520 W Main St. Drawer A, Cherokee, IA, phone 712-225-6701.

The estimated $800.000 project was approved and signed off on by the Board of Supervisors, Cherokee School District, and the Countyís Mayors in September 2016 and the story detailing the project was published in the Chronicle Times.

The Assessor's Office was assisted in this project by Vanguard Appraisals, Inc. of Cedar Rapids at a contracted cost of $709,000. That total has now reached an estimated $800,000, according to one County official.

According to Zarr, money for the project was set aside beginning in 2014 in the Assessorís budget to fund the appraisals.

Property owners have an opportunity to meet informally to discuss their valuation if they have questions or concerns, said Zarr.

Zarr said there is an informal hearing time with a Vanguard Representative March 12 through March 19 at the Assessorís Office in the courthouse, with most of those times already scheduled.

There is also an informal hearing time from April 2 through April 25 at the Assessorís Office. The Board of Review appeal dates are April 2 through April 30 and the Board will also meet during the month of May.

The shock being expressed by residents can be partly attributable to the passive nature of the project as officials neglected dispatching timely reminders informing the public and/or media of the pending February mailings over the past 17 months as the project was in progress.

According to Zarr, the purpose of the reappraisal program is to equalize property assessments so that each taxpayer is responsible for paying only his/her fair share of the property tax burden.

Zarr said that periodic inspections and reappraisal of properties are necessary as all types of properties do not increase or decrease in value at the same rate. Some properties physically deteriorate faster than others, and in many instances similar buildings located in different areas of the county will differ greatly in value due to economic factors.

According to reports, area realtors and private appraisers have been contacted by some property owners ready and willing to protest the new appraisals.

Supervisor Board Chair Rick Mongan said he hopes reasonable and orderly resolutions can be reached. Mongan said he originally opposed the project and its cost, but learned that several Iowa counties were going to, or had already hired outside appraisers to update property valuations in an effort to better equalize the taxpayersí burden.

Door-to-door inspections of all properties in Cherokee County were under way since September 2016 as part of the reappraisal project that the Cherokee County Conference Board and the County Assessor approved in 2014.

The new assessed values will be effective for January 1, 2018, for taxes payable in 2019-2020.

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