Vanguard has completed the evaluation phase of the tax equalization assessment.
By Lisa Nowatzki
The assessors have completed gathering property information and compiled the facts and figures into a reviewable database listing. Tax equalization notices will be mailed out to all property owners the week of February 19. The letter will include dates of the township equalization meetings and the county equalization meetings.
County Commissioner Stanley Dick said that he and the other commissioners are using the next few days before the tax notices are mailed out to review the database to find obvious errors. The commissioners and members of the tax director’s office look for problems related to things like empty lots, structures present on the lots, and missed parcels.
Bob Ehler of Vanguard Assessments said that assessment values are determined by using local sales analysis. Things that effect the value of a property include the size and square feet, the condition of the property, the quality of the work done to the property and the age of the property.
The new property assessment values will be available through a website setup and managed by Vanguard. The website will be up when the notices are mailed out. The web address is www.cavalier.northdakotaassessors.com.
The site is open to the public, so everyone can view their own property and their neighbor’s property values. Commissioner Dick noted that the purpose of the Vanguard Assessment is to value all properties by the same standard and to achieve equalization.
Each listing on the website will have a picture or sketch of the property including the dimensions. Like or similar properties should be valued similarly.
The tax director’s office may be able to correct minor problems over the phone. However, if an owner notices a significant problem and disagrees with the assessment, the tax director’s office will set up appointments with the Vanguard appraisers.
Pam Lafrenz, the Cavalier County Tax Director, said that she is happy to try to resolve any discrepancies over the phone or in person because the contract with Vanguard has a fixed number of appointments to justify their position. If Vanguard has to go over the contract amount, the county will be charged extra.
The hearings will begin Monday, March 12. At the appointment, representative from Vanguard, a representative from the tax director’s office, and a County Commissioner will be present along with the property owner. During that time, each property owner will have fifteen minutes to justify their valuation of the property, and Vanguard will defend its evaluation process.
After the dispute process is complete sometime in June, the final values go to the tax equalizations boards of the city and townships for approval, then on to the county. After approval from the municipalities and county, the data goes to the state for final approval.
Up to this point in the process, Dick noted that Vanguard is a “very thorough company,” and he is very pleased with their work. Lafrenz also said that she has not had any problems with the company or their performance. Both want to assure residents that all issues with Vanguard and the process will be addressed. They also both emphasized that just because a property value increases, does not mean that the property taxes will go up.
“People may not realize that we are required by state law tax real estate,” Lafrenz said. She also went on to say that for some years some land owners were not getting taxed and should have been according to North Dakota state law. She stated that her office is complying with state law. “It has to be done,” LaFrenz said.
Property taxes are determined by the ‘mill’ rate. According to investopedia.com, a mill is a figure representing the amount per $1,000 of assessed value of property, which is used to calculate the amount of property tax. Cities and townships set their own mill rates, and those are not set until November.
Some residents may see a big jump in their property values while others may not notice any difference. The property owners that do notice a large jump in value may have been assessed at an incorrect and lower value. Lafrenz stated that the property values that are outdated may be because it has been several years since the entire county has been assessed.
Lafrenz went on to list the benefits of having a more accurate property value. For property owners who have properties that are undervalued, the owner might have a hard time getting a loan for more than the lower property value. Another issue related to low property values is insurance. Low property values generate lower insurable rates that would only generate a lower real value during a catastrophic loss. Low property values also harm the property owner that is trying to sell the undervalued property which translates into a lower selling price.