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City property may be reassessed

Sept. 4, 2008

Conducting citywide reassessments next year likely would benefit St. Francis homeowners and bring the city into compliance with state statutes, City Assessor Keith Munson told the Common Council recently.

Properties were last assessed in 2004.

Munson said the council could legally postpone the reassessments that need to be accomplished by 2010, but it would not be in the city’s best interest to do so. If the city were to delay reassessments by another year, staff from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue would intervene because it would be five years since reassessments were conducted in St. Francis.

The municipality also has not been in compliance with state statutes for the past two years.

“We’re out of compliance, we’re out of compliance not only within our (assessed) ratio, but we’re out of compliance between residential and commercial properties,” he said during an Aug. 19 meeting.

State law requires residential and commercial properties to be assessed within 90 percent of fair market value, and the city’s total ratio is at 80.7 percent, according to a letter submitted by Munson.

“Our ratio is at the point where a revaluation is definitely required to maintain assessment quality,” he said.

Because more businesses have been established in the community since 2004, a reassessment would shift taxes from residents to businesses, which are underassessed, Munson said.

“If taxpayers haven’t done major improvements, their taxes would go down a small amount,” he said.

But for those residents whose taxes would increase, someone else’s taxes would decline because the assessments redistribute numbers based on current market values, which have not decreased since 2004.

This year, real estate sales are up by 1.2 percent. While foreclosure sales have gone down, they are not included in the reassessment formula because they are not considered market transactions.

The longer the city delays in conducting reassessments, the harder it is for taxpayers to financially absorb market changes, Munson said.

Although foreclosures are excluded in the reassessment formula, foreclosures have been a factor causing a hike in apartment building sales.

City Administrator Ralph Voltner said apartment building owners can expect to see their taxes increase.

Prior to the discussion, Sue Bostedt, 1st District alderwoman, submitted a letter to the Common Council requesting members postpone reassessing residents’ properties “due to the unstable real estate market, the recession and hardship this would bring on our residents.”

After learning that if reassessments are not completed by 2009 the state will intervene, Bostedt agreed they should be conducted as soon as possible.

“It would be very expensive to the city if the state had to step in,” she said after the meeting.

If a revaluation is approved, the new assessments will appear on property owner’s tax bills in December 2009, Munson said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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