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County-wide reappraisal underway

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    The Mills County Assessor's Office is currently in the process of a county-wide reappraisal.
    When all is said and done, the assessor’s office, with the assistance of an outside contractor, will have reappraised more than 17,000 parcels in the county sometime next year.
    “It’s a process. This could take a year, year and a half,” said Mills County Assessor Christina Govig. “Because people work, of course, we have trouble catching them at home. We have to go back two or three times.”
    The intent of the reappraisal is simple, said Govig, the county wants  to correct its books.
    “We make sure our square footage is correct, the number of bathrooms is correct and the details of the home are all correct,” said Govig. “There’s a lot of ag buildings across the county that are falling down and we might have a value on them that is not correct. We need to depreciate those. And people’s homes, you cannot always tell from the outside what the inside looks like. And if they don’t let us in, we have to estimate.”
    Govig and her staff of three began the reappraisal process in August. Vanguard Appraisal, Inc. of Cedar Rapids is assisting the process. In all, three appraisers are going “door-to-door” in the county currently.
    County’s typically reappraise every 10 to 15 years. Mills County’s last reappraisal was in 1996. The reappraisal will cost the county an estimated $166,000.
    Appraisers  typically spend seven to eight minutes inside homes. The appraiser will look around the inside of the home, confirm or correct the county’s listing, and take some measurements. Govig said the appraisers will take a photo of the exterior property but no photos will be taken of interiors. Appraisers will also not knock on doors after 8 p.m. nor will they enter a home without an adult homeowner present.
    “Like with everything, people talk,” said Govig. “As we move through the neighborhoods, there’s been talk and questions about us taking pictures. We take pictures outside the house. We do not take pictures inside the house. People have asked us if we go through drawers and closets and we absolutely do not.”
    Govig’s office has heard concerns from property owners about letting strangers into their homes. She understands that and requires all appraisers to have proper identification badges and drive clearly marked vehicles while working.
    “It’s understandable,” she said. “I have heard since 9/11, people are just a little more cautious,” she said. “We encourage people, that if they have a question,
call us to make sure yes, they are an appraiser.”
    Changes to the condition of a property and improvements, like additions and decks, since the the 1996 reappraisal, could effect property taxes – both up and down. However, Govig, added, the intent is not to raise taxes or evaluations.
    “A lot of what we’re seeing right now is people questioning how this will effect their taxes,” she said. “And in the last year we’ve had the increase for the new school on there, and if they’re truly not happy with their assessment, they can come in and we can talk about it.”
    April 16 to May 5, property owners in the county can appear before the Board of Review to state their case for property tax relief.
    “If your not happy with your assessment, you go in front of the board, they get 20 minutes or so to tell why they don’t like their assessment or its too high and the board makes a decision,” she said.
    Property owners with questions regarding the reappraisal project are urged to contact the Mills County Assessor’s Office at 527-4883.