Herald and Journal, March 4, 2002
Board of review meeting is time to question your property valuation
By Lynda Jensen
Spring and taxes can be synonymous, depending on the point of view.
For example, every year in the spring, cities and other units of government conduct board of reviews.
Some property owners may not realize that this is their only chance through the entire year to object to the valuation of their properties, which is what property tax hinges on, said Wright County Auditor Doug Gruber.
In fact, taxpayers pop up at the most odd times of year to register complaints about their property valuations and property taxes, said Howard Lake City Clerk Gene Gilbert.
"It happens most often during the Truth in Taxation," Gilbert commented. "It's too late then."
How it works
For property owners, the process begins when the assessor values and classifies property every year Jan. 2, Gruber said.
For Howard Lake residents, this process is slightly different, since the city retains its own independent contractor for assessments, Gilbert said.
Each parcel of property is physically assessed every four years.
The assessor sends a notice of value to the property owner about 10 days before the board of review, which is normally in April, Gruber said. The notice shows the assessment for 2002, payable in 2003.
From there, the county board of equalization meets in June to decide whether to change the assessed value of unresolved complaints.
Property owners have the option of taking their complaints to the Minnesota Tax Court as a last resort.
At the opposite time of year in the fall is when cities and school boards formulate their respective budgets.
Hence, the Truth in Taxation meeting, which is conducted in November, is for taxpayers to voice concerns about taxes in the larger context of city, county, or school budgets and proposed levies.
At this time, property owners receive a statement that gives projected valuation for the coming year.
Complaints about valuations surface for many different reasons.
"Sometimes it's hard for someone who has owned a property for 10 or 15 years to imagine the property is going up as much as it has," Gruber said. "Values have gone up across the county."
Time plays an interesting role, since the assessor is one year behind everyone else to compute the values properly, Gruber said.
For example. say a homeowner built a garage in 2001, Gruber said. The garage would be considered an improvement to the property, and be assessed accordingly in 2002.
This means the property owner would not pay taxes on it until 2003, he said.
By the time the homeowner received the bill, he or she may have forgotten the improvement even happened in relation to their taxes.
Other complaints include simple mistakes in property measurements or property classifications, he said.
Mechanical problems or explanations of the tax formula can be done before the board of review.
The 2001 legislature enacted so many changes, that the Truth in Taxation meeting for 2001 was skipped to allow for changes to take place.
Obvious changes included the shift of tax burden from schools to the state.
How this will play into the state budget shortfall is anyone's guess, Gruber said.
Property tax relief was reduced more on higher valued homes, Gruber said.
There will be more taxes collected on commercial and seasonal recreation properties, Gruber noted.
The legislature also changed the classification for homesteads on commercial properties, said McLeod County Auditor Cindy Schultz.
Before, property owners who lived at a commercial location, such as above or in the back of a business, could claim homestead classification on the whole property, Schultz said.
Now, those property owners can only claim the residential part as homestead, she said.
In some cases, this accounted for 100 percent increases, she said.
"We had a lot of angry people," she commented.
The following is the four-step process for contesting a property valuation:
1. Visit or call the assessor's office. Check the facts. Compare neighboring values. Seek an adjustment.
2. Attend board of review. Meets in April or May. Appeal in person or by letter. Call for an appointment.
3. Talk to county board of appeal and equalization. Only those taxpayers who attended the board of review can be considered by this board. Meets in June. Appeal in person or by letter. Call for appointment.
4. Appeal to Minnesota Tax Court. Appeal by March 31 of the year following assessment.
Times, places for board of reviews
The board in review is the only chance that property owners have to voice concerns over property values. Calling for an appointment generally speeds up the process
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