What’s in the value? Your property taxes

As property taxes come due in Webster County, the Webster County assessor’s office has been busy sending out assessments to property owners throughout the county.

“Most of them have been sent out,” said Jeanette Thanupakorn. “The assessments will continue to go out until April 15.”

With both commercial and residential properties, Thanupakorn said the market most often determines the value of a property.

“Iowa law requires that residential property be at 100 percent of the market value,” she said.

There is a common misconception between assessments and property taxes, Thanupakorn said.

“People think that if there is a need for more money we can just raise their assessments and that is not true,” she said.

Property tax values can change yearly as they are levied, while a property’s assessed value can remain the same for many years.

“We can show a homeowner that their assessment hasn’t changed in 10 years, and that not once in that time do their taxes stay the same,” said Thanupakorn. “Taxes change from year to year. Taxes are based on levies from their county, city, schools; many different funds use tax dollars and all of those together make up the total tax levy. The school levy, the aquatic center, those have all affected taxes.”

According to Thanupakorn, a property’s assessed value is most likely to increase when an improvement has been made. Those improvements are commonly tracked by building permits, which are required within the city of Fort Dodge.

“The city requires building permits and we usually get copies of those,” she said. “Farmers are not required to get a permit, but commercial and residential properties are required to have building permits.”

Assessing property and finding upgrades and demolitions also requires staff from the assessor’s office to travel the county.

“Every other year we drive every road in the county looking for new construction and things that have been torn down. We have to look for demolitions because you don’t want to assess what has been torn down. We also send out an assessment roll when we make changes to a property to let the owners know if we have added something.”

If a property owner believes the value of their property is higher or lower than the assessed value, they can file a protest between April 16 and May 5 at the Webster County assessor’s office. Their case is then heard by the Webster County Board of Review.

“If they want to protest, they need to bring proof that their home won’t sell for what we have it assessed at,” said Thanupakorn. “It is up to them to prove to the Board of Review why the value is too high.”

Still, Thanupakorn said misconception is often still a major factor.

“Probably 90 percent of the complaints we receive are actually about the taxes and not the value of properties.”