March 16th, 2009
Do Assessors Play Favorites?
On the plane to Grand Cayman I sat with Betty, a retired sugar beet farmer
from the Moorhead area, traveling with her husband Ralph for their annual 2
weeks in Grand Cayman. Betty made the farm life so enticing I was ready to
pitch selling and appraising dirt for farming it-until I remembered the only
thing I can grow are weeds!
While she rides the tractor during the farming season, she had her winters
free. In addition to being an election judge, Betty got her assessors
license and went to work for Clay County. She was assigned to value her
husband's uncle's farm. She noted on the property card that the house was
only 1,000 square feet. But when she measured it she realized it was
actually 2,500 square feet! She corrected the "mistake" of the previous
assessor. And, when the new tax statements were sent out, got an angry call
from her husband's uncle!
And she told me about her neighbor, farmer Ed, who was not popular with the
Town Board. Every year Ed went to the board of review to contest that his
assessed value was too high, as it was more than the neighbors. And every
year the Town Board turned down Ed's request to lower the value. (Ed might
have had better results filing a petition in Property Tax Court because the
assessor has more incentive to settle with him). Betty got aggravated with
the politics of being an assessor in a town where everyone knows everyone
and she quit.
So, does this happen in the Twin Cities area? I'd like to tell you that all
assessors in the region are completely professional and this favoritism
never happens here. And I believe this is true for the most part. But there
I'm doing a tax appeal for some land in a Township bordering a City. The
assessor has my developer client's land at $24,000/acre. When I looked at
the assessed values of the similar neighboring properties, the ones owned by
family farmers that had been there a long time, the assessed values are from
$8,000 - $12,000/acre! Not just an isolated event, this was true of FIVE
farms near my clients. The sales data indicated that the property should be
valued at $14,000/acre.
I do believe this favoritism is the exception in the Twin Cities region and
not the rule. What I more typically see is if land is overvalued in a
community, the neighboring parcels are overvalued as well. The exception I
see to this is those property owners that did property tax appeals in 2008.
In most cases an assessor will raise or lower all property classes the same
percentage in a given year. So typically when you successfully appeal your
2009 value it will result in lower values for years to come.
In todays financial environment its not worth the price of the stamp to mail
my checking deposits to my money market account. So doing a property tax
appeal is one of the best returns on investment you can get anywhere today!
The clock is ticking-your 2009 property tax appeal must be filed by April
30th. Not sure whether your property is valued correctly? Send me your
property locations and PIDs and I'll do a free quick analysis to determine
if a property tax appeal makes sense for you. Got your 2010 value yet? I'd
be happy to review that as well.