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Property assessments up 8 percent



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July 27, 2011 | 08:15 AM
It arrived in the mail Saturday and it wasn't like receiving a card from an old friend or a Netflix DVD.

Property owners throughout the city of Lake Geneva received their 2011 assessments following a full revaluation of the city's residential and commercial properties.

And with a 7.34 percent overall increase of residential assessments, some property owners had questions and concerns about their revaluations.

City Clerk Jeremy Reale said he fielded about a dozen calls Monday and into Tuesday from people with questions and concerns.

But, according to Accurate Appraisal's Jim Danielson, the number of questions and concerns received has not been "out of the ordinary."

Danielson said property owners are questioning how in the down economy, their values are actually on the rise. He said the reason is a revaluation hasn't been performed in six years. He said although the past couple years have been tough, overall during the last six, values have gone up.

Danielson said it might appear as though property value increases are for one year because of how it is stated on the assessment letters. However, Danielson said the increases actually are for a six-year period, meaning a little more than a 1-percent increase each year.

He said property values in Wisconsin, and especially Walworth County and Lake Geneva, remain "pretty strong."

Danielson and Reale said increases in property assessments do not mean increases in taxes the property owners will have to pay. Danielson said there are a lot of variables that go into that formula, and Reale said there still are a lot of factors to be determined regarding taxes.

"People see their assessments and they automatically equate that with their taxes going up," Reale said. "That that is not necessarily accurate."

Danielson said the reason for the revaluation is ensure "fair and equitable" assessments so "people are paying their fair share" of taxes.

Danielson said lake property assessments increased more than the rest of the city. He said there are 95 lake properties in the city and they have "a lot of value." Of the total assessment in the city, lake property values are 30 percent of the total.

Owners sometimes questioned how Accurate Appraisals came up with the assessments.

Danielson said physical inspections were only made to residences that changed, while market trends and sales were used to determine most of the assessments.

According to Danielson, and the letter included with the assessment, property owners wishing to contest their assessments should contact Accurate Appraisals to meet individually with the appraisers during the open book process on Wednesday, Aug. 3 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. and 4:15 to 7 p.m. or on Thursday, Aug. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Property owners can make online appointments.

Danielson said open book is when information is provided to show the property owners about how their assessment was figured. He said that is the best time to discuss an assessment issue.

If, after the open book, a property owner still objects to the assessment, an "objection" form must be filed with the City Clerk before the local board of review, which will meet on Aug. 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. Appearances at the Board of Review are by appointment only and function like a court, requiring evaluation of evidence based on facts. A property owner must provide factual information showing the property is incorrectly assessed.

The overall residential assessment of the city is $857 million, up from $798 million. Split up, residential land assessment went up 11.4 percent to $327.5 million, while improvements were up 4.97 percent to $529.5 million.

Commercial property assessments rose 9.74 percent from $342.7 million, to $376 million. Commercial land was up less than 1 percent, but improvements made were up 12.76 percent to a total of $288.8 million.

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