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Reassessments cause uproar
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Assessment Ratios

2007 - 80.7 percent

2006 - 86.2

2005 - 87.0

2004 - 91.7

2003 - 98.6

2002 - 94.3

2001 - 100.6

2000 - 105.0

1999 - 77.13

1998 - 80.0

1997 - 88

1996 - 94

1995 - 93

MONROE - Assessed values have increased drastically in Monroe township, but residents say they can't sell the houses for what they're worth.

About 75 homeowners registered at the Town of Monroe open book meeting Thursday to ask assessors questions about their 2008 assessments.

Most of them expressed "sticker shock" at the increase in their property values.

Some requested an objection form to complete for an appointment at the Board of Review July 31.

"Our biggest thing is we wanted them to know how many are protesting their assessment," Sherri Fiduccia said. Her property value went up $115,000, an increase of 34 percent over the last assessment in 1999.

The town has 352 residential parcels on the assessment rolls, which was at only 80 percent full value. The latest assessment will bring the township tax roll back into line with the state mandated 90-110 percent. Monroe township has been under 90 percent since 2005.

About six residents who spoke on record said their residential property values went up around $70,000, representing up to a 50 percent increase. Some of that increase is from residential land values rising to about $30,000 for the first acre, and $5,000 for each additional acre. Some residents' land values doubled.

Town Clerk Karen Sutter and the assessors explained that the mill rate would go down in response to the increased property values.

"We still have to raise the same amount of money," Sutter said.

The mill rate is the amount of money to be raised divided by the property value. If property values go up, but the amount to be raised stays the same, the rate is lower.

The town levied only $90,000 last year, or $1.17 per $1,000. If the town budget stays the same next year, the cost per $1,000 will be lower, but a resident would probably pay about the same amount with the higher valued home.

And Sutter said the board expects to need the same budget next year.

"We hold pretty hard to the line," Sutter said.

But some residents were not buying the explanation.

"They're just telling us that," Fiduccia said. "We have two years left on the referendum and the Justice Center is in there somewhere."

The new assessment puts everybody's property back up to full market value.

"The assessment moves everybody up. Everybody got it," Sutter said.

Todd Hasse was having his home reassessed last night, after proving there were mistakes made on his property description - extra square footage and an extra bathroom he doesn't have.

When Hasse's house was built in 2002, to be in line with other existing homes, it was assessed at the 2000 fair market value, which was when every other resident was last assessed.

He expected his property value to increase 3 to 5 percent a year, not jump all at once. His land value doubled and his residence increased 38 percent, for a total increase of $78,600.

Hasse said the increased property value problem ties back to school taxes and the new Justice Center now just barely getting started with bids being accepted.

"If I had known about this then, I would have been calling and complaining to my (county) representative," he said. "I think they need to take a step back and assess the needs for everyone.

"I don't mind paying my fair share, but how do you budget for something like this?

Dawn Thompson, a "widow on one income," said her assessment was "quite a shock," especially when she made no improvements or changes to her property. Her property increased $49,500. Her lot value doubled to $33,000.

"This is crazy," she said. "It seems everything keeps going up, up, up. Where do we get the money? We have no (city) sewer, no garbage pickup, no street lights. It's crazy."

Some residents have been calling local Realtors trying to get the selling prices of nearby homes, upon which assessments are determined.

Fiduccia said only two homes over $300,000 have been sold in the town since 2006. In the same time period, 13 have been sold in the entire school district.

"People aren't buying these homes in the township," she said. "Overall the housing market is down 40 percent."

Al Kash said only homes under $150,000 are selling.

"Out where we're at, there's nothing less than $150,000," he said. Kash's house is now worth $232,000, up from $147,000 last year.

Residents in the Edelweiss subdivision said they had five homes not selling in that neighborhood.

Mary Pandow said that was because there are no jobs in the city of Monroe. Pandow's home value went up $61,000, and the 2.67 acres it sits on increased $20,000, a 51.9 percent increase overall.

"With all the jobs lost, no job (now) is comparable to what we made," she said. "I really don't think Wal-Mart is comparable."

James Mayer called himself "a single man with a crappy-paying job." His assessment went up $50,000.

"I like my job," he said, "but do they want everybody to live in a mobile home?"

Dave Koning said his property went up $45,000, but admitted he put in $50,000 to transform a three car garage into a recreation room. However, he found his 20 acres had almost tripled in value, from $22,000 to $62,000.

"Is it worth it?" he said.

Fiduccia also questions the assessors' determinations.

The town hired the state-recommended Gardiner Appraisal Service, LLC, at a cost of $23,000 to do the required assessment.

"(The assessment) is not fair across the board," Fiduccia said. Nicer places are "jacked up" more than the places that don't look so good, she said.

Hasse said the assessor who came to his house "was a kid," - about 20-21 years old.

"He came on a Saturday morning, was there about four minutes. He came in the front door, went downstairs, and that was it," he said.

"Who audits the assessors? Who oversees the assessors?" Fiduccia said.

The town's assessment roll fell below the 90 percent mark, to 87 percent, in 2005 for the first time since its last assessment in 1999.

Sutter said the town board knew the reassessment was coming. The state requires assessments be at or above 90 percent once every three years. The town's dropped to 86.2 in 2006 and then to 80.7 percent in 2007.

If the economy and home sales had kept going down, the ratio would have gone back up.

"But I knew it wouldn't be quick enough to save us from an assessment," Sutter said. "Next year's sales might reflect that."