Janesville24.3°

Assessments anger town residents

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Stacy Vogel
December 17, 2007
— Darrell Pelikan knew his home value would go up in the town of Janesville’s reassessment this year.

After all, the town hadn’t assessed the home at 5332 N. County H in nine years.


But he wasn’t expecting a 77 percent increase.


Pelikan was shocked to see the assessor, Associated Appraisal Consultants of Appleton, valued his 1,300-square-foot home at $193,000, up $84,000 from its assessed value in 1998 and up $82,000 from the price he paid for it in 2001.


“It was outrageous, even at the prices real estate was going two or three years ago,” Pelikan said.


Pelikan wasn’t the only one angry. Town clerk Andrea Peabody estimated a couple hundred residents showed up for the town’s open book session in November, and about 60 appeared before the town’s board of review a few weeks later.


Bruce Gurney was one of them. He went to the open book session to complain about his assessment rising 90 percent since it was built in 2000. His 1,092-square-foot home was assessed at $223,000.


“That place was packed,” he said of his trip to town hall. “I had to wait two hours.”


After the open book session, Associated Appraisal lowered the assessment to $188,000, Gurney said. The board of review declined to lower the assessment further.


Pelikan’s assessment also was lowered after the open book session, to $177,000—still a 62 percent increase. He, too, appealed to the board of review and was denied.


Town Chairman Ed Marshall said he wasn’t surprised by the high turnout at the open book session and the board of review.


“When people’s assessments go up, the first thing they do is they get upset about it,” he said. “People think that their taxes are going to go up, and they don’t.”


Overall, property value in the township increased between 40 and 50 percent, Peabody said.


But it shouldn’t affect tax bills, Marshall said. The town’s portion of the tax rate dropped 26 percent in the latest budget process, to $0.78 per $1,000.


That means Pelikan will pay an additional $23 to the town this year. His overall tax bill will go up $800, or 37 percent, to $3,000.


Pelikan hired a private appraiser, Robert Kagel, who valued his home at $164,000.


“There’s no way that I’m going to be able to sell this property at $193,000 or—anytime in the next few years—$177,000,” Pelikan said.


Pelikan believes the assessor made his decision based on the inflated sale prices of homes in the last few years and didn’t take into account the current nationwide housing crisis.


“Now with this subprime (mortgage collapse) and all this, things have to come down,” he said.


But assessors can look only at sale prices from before Jan. 1 of the year of the assessment, said Joe Griesbach, president of Associated Appraisal. That means the company couldn’t look at any home sales after Jan. 1, 2007.


Home values have gone up in Janesville Township because of its proximity to the city of Janesville, Griesbach said.


Pelikan has few options after the board of review denied his appeal. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue can overrule the assessment, but it won’t get involved unless Pelikan believes the assessment was off by more than 10 percent. The private appraisal he got was 8 percent off the assessed value.


He could try appealing to circuit court, he said. Or, if 5 percent of the taxpayers sign a petition objecting to the appraisal, they could force the town board to do a whole new appraisal next year.


Pelikan believes that might be possible.


“There’s a lot of people who are upset,” he said.


About the assessment

One reason town of Janesville assessments went up so much was the nine-year gap between revaluations, said Joe Griesbach, president of Associated Appraisal Consultants.


That’s longer than normal, he said.


Municipalities are supposed to revaluate their property when their assessment ratios fall below 90 percent, Griesbach said. That means the difference between how much the community says it’s worth and how much the state thinks it’s worth (the community’s equalized value) is more than 10 percent.


The town of Janesville fell below that mark in 2003. By 2006, its ratio was 75 percent.


“That’s pretty far down already, but that’s not too far off the norm for that many years,” Griesbach said.


In 2005, the town received a noncompliance notice from the state. If it hadn’t done the revaluation in 2007, the state would have done it in 2008 at a much higher cost to the town, Griesbach said.


Janesville Town Chairman Ed Marshall said the town waited the proper amount of time to revaluate.


“We do it when the state requires us to do it,” he said. “It’s very expensive to do it, and nobody likes to have it done.”



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