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Prairie City News

Valuation complications

Increased property assessments draws concerns, questions

Jerry Kelley, of Newton, talks about his increased property assessments, something in which many folks in Jasper County have questions and concerns about.
Jerry Kelley, of Newton, talks about his increased property assessments, something in which many folks in Jasper County have questions and concerns about.

Jasper County residents have less than a week left to request an informal review with the assessor’s office to dispute what some citizens have described as “significant increases” made to their property valuations this year, which officials say is a result of a strong housing market.

If citizens believe the value placed upon their homes is not a fair representation of the property’s market value, the Jasper County Assessor’s Office is still allowing citizens to request informal reviews of the property assessments until April 25. Likewise, they can also file a petition with the board of review until June 5, according to a form obtained from the Jasper County Assessor’s Office.

Jasper County Assessor Tracy DeJong said her office has seen more activity since April 2, the date in which property owners were given the opportunity to protest the new valuation increases. Customers often question what exactly has happened to warrant such a high assessment or inquire about how the change will affect their taxes.

“We don’t know what taxes are going to do yet because those are set by the levy rates of the schools, the cities and the county supervisors,” DeJong said. “We don’t know what (the tax levy rate of each entity) is. We have to follow legal guidelines for assessment purposes. I have to be within legal guidelines to follow that information and follow the market. The market is the strongest draw right now and that’s what is changing values.”

Nevertheless, the sharp increases have certainly caught the general public’s attention, many of whom worried their taxes would drastically multiply following the reassessments. They resorted to airing their grievances online, at the Jasper County Assessor’s Office or, like Newton resident Jerry Kelley, during the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday morning. 

Like most meetings, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors allowed several minutes for public input and comments after discussing and approving the regular meeting agenda items. Kelley told the supervisors the residential property revaluations, at least from what he gathered around his neighborhood, were “excessive.”

“Most of ‘em are looking at a good double-digit increase, anywhere from 12 to 17 percent,” Kelley later told the Newton Daily News Thursday outside his home. “That’s just going to be a hard pill to swallow for some people. And it’s not comfortable for us. We can probably absorb most of this. We ain’t going to like it, but ... Let’s take another look at this thing and let’s try to be as fair as possible. That’s all we’re saying.”

Kelley said his Newton home was revalued $27,000 higher than it was previously.

Doug Cupples, vice-chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, reminded Kelley the increase in property assessments was not a board decision, but rather the county assessor meeting state demands. If assessments decreased, Cupples said, then citizens would “feel worse” since it would require the county to raise its tax levy. 

Turning to Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott for confirmation, Cupples claimed the county’s levy should decrease. Parrott asserted it “absolutely” would and pointed out the assessed property value would not affect citizen taxes “until a year later.” The experience could teach taxpayers to monitor the happenings (perhaps, more specifically, the budgets) of the school districts, the cities and the county supervisors.

Both Cupples and fellow supervisor Brandon Talsma suggested Kelley also speak to the Newton City Council and the Newton Community School District Board of Education about his worries with the increased property valuations, and possibly their interests in lowering the levy; however, both the city’s and the school district’s budgets have already been certified.

DeJong echoed the supervisors’ sentiments in regards to taxes. If Jasper County residents are concerned about their taxes, she said, then “they need to be paying attention to budget meetings.” 

Properties are required to be revalued, DeJong added, every two years, typically falling on the odd-numbered years. According to the Jasper County Assessor’s Office, Iowa law requires assessed values to be at 100 percent of the market value, or within 5 percent above or below that target.

Jasper County was assessed below the market value at about 85 percent, resulting in a 15 percent valuation increase for one- and two-family homes. DeJong clarified this does not mean every property in the county increased by 15 percent. Some home valuations may have stayed the same or even decreased.

The impact of drastically increased property assessments are being felt in many counties throughout the state. DeJong said she spoke with another county that had also increased valuations by 15 percent. Property values in Jasper County, she added, “haven’t been raised in seven years,” but “it had to happen” given the county’s proximity to Des Moines.

“We’re a county that’s being needed right now because people don’t want to pay Polk County levy rates,” DeJong said. “So they’re coming to Jasper County and paying a little bit more for the houses to have a little bit lower rates, but that’s also going to be raising our market and raising our values. The market’s high right now. It’s good.

“But at the same time I get taxpayers are concerned and we’re explaining to everybody that calls and trying to help them out.”

Acknowledging the reason for the valuation changes can be a lot to take in for residents, DeJong said she and her office are still willing to speak with them about their concerns, even if it is still unclear if the revaluations will heavily impact taxes.

She added, “Just because your assessment went up doesn’t mean that your taxes are going to go up that same percent.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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