By Tim Douglass
Who says it isn’t possible to make a case for lowering the estimated market values on property?
The Glenwood City Commission hosted the annual Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting last Wednesday for city property owners and heard a number of requests for reducing property values and took action to reduce dozens of them.
The Pope County Assessor’s office members were at the meeting, including Assessor Michael Wacker, Deputy Assessor Bonnie Lang and Kelly Lemke, the Glenwood City Assessor.
After the hearing was called to order by Mayor Sherri Kazda at 5 p.m., Wacker reminded commissioners that they would not be allowed to take any action that night on requests from those who had not contacted the assessor’s office prior to the hearing. In that case, the city would simply acknowledge the request and make “no change” to the value. That would allow the property owner time to contact the assessor’s office and appeal to the Pope County Board in June, Wacker explained.
Wacker said the phones have been “very busy” at the assessor’s office because of the valuation changes that occurred this year. He told commissioners that there were 51 property sales in Glenwood and 197 sales county-wide in the past year, a time frame that runs from October of 2020 through September of 2021. He said taking the highest values of sales and the lowest values created a median ratio
for property value of 67.71 percent. For simple math, that means that a home valued at about $67,710 would now sell for $100,000. His office is required by state statute to bring values up to at least 90 percent of the market value.
“We have no choice but to do that or the state will do it,” he told commissioners. That meant many property values increased in the 20 to 40 percent range. He said if there were more sales in a particular neighborhood, values in that neighborhood could’ve increased more than other areas of the city.
Wacker also stated that the city of Glenwood was not alone. “All over the county property sales came in dramatically higher than our values,” he explained. He said there were many factors that lead to the increase in property values, but said a few reasons included, low interest rates, a buyer’s willingness to pay more for a home and people cashing out of homes in other areas and reinvesting in homes in Pope County.
Mary Pooler, the first to speak at the meeting, told commissioners that her home was built in 1985 and the value increased by about $37,496 over the past eight years. She said her value increased by $91,600 for the 2022-2023 year. “That’s about 40 percent in just one year,” she said.
She also said that after having assessors in her home and listening to Wacker, she had “no delusions that her value would be dropped.”
“The only reason I’m here is to state my feelings on the high jump and to express to you that a $91,000 increase is excessive,” she said.
The county assessors at the meeting said they had no recommendation for the city to reduce the value and steered her toward her tax preparer to seek a possible property tax refund because she is on a fixed income. “We always recommend that everyone should check that out,” Wacker said.
Pooler’s 2023 Estimated Market Value on her home came in at $310,500. Mayor Sherri Kazda asked the assessor if that value would go down in the next few years if things changed.
“All this is done on a one-year basis,” Wacker said. “If values lower, we will be just as quick to drop them as we are to raise them.” An example, he said, was dropping ag land by 5 percent last year. The commission passed a motion for “no change” to Pooler’s property value.
Dave Helander, who owns a home on the north side of Trophy Lake just inside of the city limits, did get some relief. The commissioners by motion reduced his estimated market value set by the assessor by 15 percent, bringing it more in line with the increases in that neighborhood. Helander’s value went up just over 50 percent, when other homes in that area increased in the 35 percent range. “My increase is excessive when compared to anyone else in the neighborhood,” he said.
Wes Tessman appealed his value, which increased from $159,000 to $227,000 (about 50%). He said it was “hard to believe an A-frame home with two bedrooms and less than 1,000 square feet could be valued that high,” he told the commission. The assessor’s office did view his property and recommended that the city reduce his value by $10,000 to $217,000. The commission approved that recommendation.
Tessman also said he hoped that the city would be very frugal with the budget for next year. He said retired people on a fixed income will be having a hard time with property taxes. “Even with the reduction, I’ll be paying about $200 every month just for taxes. That’s a lot, so you need to be consciencious about the city’s budget.”
Kaleb Baker said he was concerned that his valuation at $206,000 was significantly higher than the amount a realtor had recently told him he could sell his home for. His valuation jumped from $146,000 to $210,000. The commissioner voted “no change” on the appeal so that the assessor could get into the home and take a better look at it. The motion allows Baker to be able to take his appeal to the Pope County Board in June.
City Administrator Dave Iverson brought up the city-owned Lakeside and received a “no change” motion so that its lease could appeal the valuation to the county if it was deemed appropriate.
There was action on about 12 properties owned by residents who weren’t at the meeting but had met with the assessor. In all of those cases, the assessor recommended reductions in market value and the city approved all of the recommendations.