Assessment appeals head to Janesville City Council

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
— For the first time in recent memory, the owners of six commercial properties and one residence will appeal their assessments before the Janesville City Council.

The appeal to the council is one of three options available for those unsatisfied with the rulings of the board of review.

The city in 2011 completed a citywide revaluation for the first time since 2002. A record number of assessments were appealed to the city's quasi-judicial board of review.

As a result of the revaluation, residential property owners will pay less of the total property taxes levied, a total of about 66 percent as compared to 68 percent in 2010. The average change in residential assessments was a 5.5 percent increase.

Commercial property owners will pay more of the total tax levy, about 27 percent compared to 25 percent in 2010. The average commercial assessment change was an increase of about 20 percent.

Janesville's total property value is about $3.85 billion.

Property owners unhappy with their assessments could first meet with the city assessor and then appear before the board of review.

The assessments on properties totaling about $102.8 million were appealed.

The board scheduled 88 appointments to review 278 accounts or parcels. Some of those who appeared represented more than one account, said Jean Wulf, city clerk.

For example, one condominium owner protested the assessments of his 51 condos. The board considered one presentation as a master case that applied to all condos under his ownership.

Some developers contested the values of vacant lots and those, too, were grouped under master cases.

Of that $102.8 million appealed, total assessments were reduced about $11.9 million for a new value of about $90.9 million.

The board changed the value of 73 parcels and sustained the value on 205, Wulf said.

Of the 73 assessments changed, 51 concerned the condominiums. The condos were assessed at different values, and all were reduced by $43,100, Wulf said.

About $8 million of the total was on two properties owned by Blain's Farm & Fleet and its corporate headquarters here. The company offered new information to the board of review, including its own appraisals, Wulf said.

Property owners not satisfied with the board's rulings had until Tuesday to appeal in one of three ways:

-- Seek a review from the state Department of Revenue. Three residential property owners chose this option, and the DOR upheld the city assessments in all three cases.

-- Appeal in Rock County Court. This route was chosen by the owners of five commercial property owners, including the owner of the former Del Taco property. All five appeals are pending in court.

-- File an "excessive assessment claim" with the city council. Seven property owners chose this option, including Sears, Target, two car dealerships and the Hampton Inn Janesville. The city hired an attorney to advise it how to handle the claims because nobody had exercised this option in recent memory, Wulf said. Owners going before the council could appeal the council's decision to Rock County Court.

Brad Moxley, the owner of two apartment complexes, said he decided to take his assessments before a judge because he believed he presented compelling information to the board of review. He was disappointed members didn't agree.

He is asking that the assessment of his apartment building at 1315 Laramie Lane, for example, be lowered from $369,100 to $268,300. In his data, he included a list of 23 other eight-unit apartment buildings that he said are comparable. The assessments range from $268,300 to $283,200. The only comparable sale he could find was in 2010, and that eight-unit sold for $234,400.

Moxley in his data also questioned why the assessor didn't use the expenses and income figures Moxley has provided the assessor for the last three years. Instead, the assessor used a general formula, he said. As a result, Moxley doesn't believe the board considered his actual expenses.

Moxley said members of the board of review complimented him on his presentation, so he was surprised when there was no change.

Moxley is representing himself because the amount of money to be saved does not justify the expense of hiring an attorney, he said. But the difference is important because Moxley said he cannot compete with other landlords when his expenses are higher, especially with the city's high vacancy rates.

Depending on the outcomes, the city would be responsible for paying any shortfall in taxes because tax rates are already set. The city would seek some of the shortfall owed it from other jurisdictions, such as the school district and county. It would fill the remaining gap either through its operational budget or by borrowing.

Last updated: 7:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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