MONROE — Property owners have been on edge for the last week after a majority of residents received information that their assessed home value had increased, worried over a tax hike, but city officials are trying to assure homeowners that, despite an increase in value, taxes may actually go down or stay the same.
City Administrator Phil Rath said annual assessments have been conducted by Associated Appraisal Consultants Inc. of Appleton for seven years and that this year, the revaluation resulted in an average increase of 16 percent of home value. But that increase may not necessarily mean tax increases.
“If everybody’s assessed value goes up, then essentially, the tax rate will most likely go down,” Rath said. “We are doing everything with the city that we can to hold taxes in line.”
Rath said the city has been using systems like priority-based budgeting, which was adopted to compile the budget last year and asks each department to rate the importance of services for the city to evaluate whether it parallels with the goals of the community.
For Mary Stauffacher, a resident in the 800 block of 10th Street, the $18,000 increase in value to her home was of small concern. She noted more concern for her daughter, Brenda Salzwedel, who has been a homeowner in Monroe since 2002.
Salzwedel was informed their home value increased by over $115,000.
“That’s crazy,” Stauffacher said. “There’s just no way they can stay there because of the taxes. … That is not going to draw people into town.”
The results were jarring for Salzwedel, who said the family had sought an assessment through their bank for a loan against the home only months before and had been told the house was worth $100,000 less than the assessment revaluation results found.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” Salwedel said, adding that she has been seeking out other places to live or to build a new home outside the city because it would be less expensive. “We had no idea this even happened.”
Stauffacher said she was never told when or if the assessment would happen. Salzwedel said she spoke to no one before receiving the assessment results.
Salzwedel said if taxes did not increase, it would be a relief. However, she remains unconvinced.
“We both work here, we grew up here,” she said, adding that if they have to leave it will be sad for her family. “We can’t afford to pay twice the taxes.”
Even if taxes do stay the same, Salzwedel said she’s doubtful people will want to move to Monroe if the housing values are as high as the assessment has determined and lamented the idea of stagnant growth within the community.
Rath said higher value means good things for Monroe.
“The levy is establishing growth,” Rath said. “It’s a good thing. If the values in the community are going up, that’s positive.”
Rath said taxes may increase due to the city “not being the only player in the game.”
The city, school district, technical college and county will all have to consider 2019 budgets, which affects total property taxes. For city taxes, once it determines the amount needed to balance the city budget after revenue is subtracted from expenses, the remaining amount is divided by the value of all property in the municipality and multiplied by 1,000. This determines the tax rate.
However, the amount any entity can levy has limitations set by the state. Rath said the city cannot raise its taxes by more than the added value of development within the city within the last year, which was less than 1 percent.
Rath denied the idea that the city orchestrated any type of rate increase in order to gain more tax income. The state sets a limit that cannot be exceeded. If it is, the Department of Revenue reduces the amount it allows the city.
“The city didn’t ask to have a revaluation, nor did we do that to get more money,” Rath said. “The changes in assessed value doesn’t necessarily increase taxes and the city doesn’t change or ask to have the values changed. We’re required to do an assessment every year. Adjustments are made to every degree every year, and it’s not the changes in those values that we’re looking for to get more money or anything like that.”
Assessors are certified by state law and must follow strict criteria. According to the Associated Appraisal website, “a revaluation is the process of determining the current market value of all taxable property in a municipality,” which includes a physical review of land and its improvements. It notes that the point of a revaluation is to equalize assessments to ensure each property “bears only its fair share of the property tax burden.”
Salzwedel said she has tried to contact Associated Appraisal to schedule an appointment for the open book hours, which will have assessors from the consulting firm available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the westside fire station, but no one has spoken to her and she hasn’t received any return calls. Despite this, Salzwedel said she still intends to show up to speak to the experts about the change in her home value.
Rath recommended residents visit the open book hours to review the assessments and talk to consultants to better understand why their home values increased. He reiterated that property value increases do not automatically translate to higher taxes, and the changes will likely have little impact on the amount of money the city can acquire from taxpayers.
“The assessed value just changes the rate; if everybody’s rate changes then it doesn’t get us any more money, it doesn’t get us any less money,” he said.