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Assessment change could save city money in future years

October 20, 2010 | 08:53 AM
The city of Lake Geneva has found one way to save money in upcoming years.

It appears as if officials are close to replacing internal full-time assessor Grace Lininger with an assessment consultant company, Accurate Appraisal.

On Oct. 11, the council discussed the Accurate Appraisal bid proposal for all assessment services from 2011 through 2014. The total cost would be $173,000, which include a market revaluation in 2011 and continued assessment maintenance the next three years.

Recently, City Administrator Dennis Jordan, was asked to "investigate how neighboring communities addressed assessing functions for their respective communities."

According to information he provided, "no other city in the county has a full-time assessor."

The city has had a contracted assessor for many years and hired an assistant technician to man the office, according to Jordan. "Upon the untimely death of the contracted assessor in 2006, the city promoted the assessor technician to the full-time position of assessor," he wrote.

With salary, benefits and other costs related to the office of the assessor, the cost to the city has been more than $90,000 per year. In 2005, the total was the most at $101,483. In 2010, the wages for the assessor total $60,136, add in $17,913 for health insurance, $15,850 for other costs and the total was $93,899.

Jordan wrote that the city could save $18,906 in the first year, if they contract with Accurate Appraisal. The saving in the second year would be $40,961. The final two years, it would be $50,399 per year.

That would mean the total saving for the four-year contract would be $160,665. In the fifth year, the cost would be between $35,000 and $40,000. The city would be saving at minimum $53,899 per year starting the fifth year and have a 100 percent valuation each year.

Jordan included a list of positives for going with a contracted assessor.

- Savings on salary and benefits

- 100 percent valuation

- Citizens calling would have the phone answered just as if they were calling City Hall

- No additional charges for commercial valuations, open book or board of review.

He also stated a few negatives, which included, not having a person staff the office on site, citizen will have to contact the assessor by phone, unemployment compensation and COBRA payments to the employee and morale issues.

Jim Danielson, of Accurate Appraisal, said his company works with 85 municipalities statewide, including 10 within Walworth County. He also said his company has been performing commercial appraisals for the city and is familiar with the area.

"We are very aware of what is going on in this area," Danielson said. "That is very important in a revaluation situation."

It has been several years since the city was revaluated. That process is expected to be done again soon. If the city chooses Accurate Appraisal, it will keep updated property valuations.

The issue is expected to be discussed and possibly acted upon at the next council agenda, which is set for Oct. 25. Jordan said that because the city has a full-time assessor, there are state statutes and ordinances that must be followed in order to possibly make a change.

Accurate Appraisal is located in Appleton. They are the current assessors for the the village of Fontana and the cities of Elkhorn, Monona, Menasha, Beaver Dam, Portage, Stoughton, Delafield, DePere and other cities, villages and towns in Wisconsin.

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Walworth County