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Now's the time to complain about property values

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News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/all/themes/wctrib_theme/images/social_default_image.png
West Central Tribune
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Now's the time to complain about property values
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

It happens every December, during Truth-in-Taxation hearings or final government bud-get hearings. Angry property owners -- gripping their tax statements -- complain that their property values were set too high by city or county assessors.

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So sad. Too bad. Too late!

Those objections need to be registered

in early April for any change to be made.

Waiting until December to complain only results in frustrated property owners who feel they have not been heard and have no recourse.

Elected officials have no choice but to say they're sorry and remind their constituents that an appeal needs to be made in early spring.

With drastic changes in the housing market, it's likely more people will appeal their taxable market values this year. To do that, however, important deadlines cannot be missed.

Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl is taking special pains this year to make sure people are aware of the process and the time frame for making an appeal.

"Take the time to learn the process," said Kleindl.

"Educate. Educate. Educate yourself," said Kandiyohi County Assessor Tim Falkum.

This month, property owners will begin receiving notices of valuation that include property classifications, class rate and the estimated market value -- which is how much the property would sell for in today's market. "Today" is a relative term, however, because the 2009 values are based on a time period from the previous 18 months when the housing market was better than it is today.

Nevertheless, errors can be made when determining market values and there are steps to take to file objections and possibly get values lowered.

Step-by-step

A property owner who believes, for example, the value of their home is $130,000 instead of the $190,000 the assessor has it listed for, should contact the assessor to review the facts and seek an adjustment.

The next step is to appeal to local township supervisors or city council members during the board of appeals and equalization hearings, said Falkum.

Those hearings are held from April 1 through May 31 in Minnesota (from April 1-21 in Kandiyohi County). The specific date, time and locations of the meeting you need to attend are printed on the individual notices of valuation that are mailed in March.

Legal notices of the meetings are also published in official newspapers like the West Central Tribune.

A homeowner should do his homework and attend the designated hearing with evidence, such as a comparison of property values or recent sales of similar property in the neighborhood. Photos that show your rocky, highly assessed lakeshore compared to your neighbor's sandy beach that has a lower market value could sway the local board.

"Taxpayers are becoming more and more educated," said Falkum.

Keeping a close eye on market values in your community can be useful information when making an appeal.

The county assessor is also at these hearings to provide information that could justify the estimated market value.

"I go to all of them," said Falkum. The appraiser who viewed the property and set the market values for that district is also in attendance.

The local body can decide on the spot to lower the market values and pass that information on to the county assessor, who will make the change.

Or that town board or city council could decide not to lower the market value, which would trigger the next step.

Property owners who still feel their market values have been unjustly set can bring that evidence to the county board of appeals and equalization, which is made up of the county commissioners. An appeal must be made at the local level first in order to be heard by the county.

Counties hold their hearings in June in Minnesota. It's set for June 15 in Kandiyohi County.

Property owners must call the county assessor to be put on the county agenda, said Falkum.

County commissioners will listen to testimony and objections offered by homeowners regarding their market values. The commissioners will even travel to the property and walk through every room in the home or around the farm site to see for themselves if the market value is accurate or not before dispensing their final decision.

Last year, because of the high number of objections, the county board took two days to listen to appeals and tour properties.

If the homeowner still isn't happy, they can take their case to Minnesota Tax Court or to small claims court. Some commercial entities will bypass the appeal process and go directly to court.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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