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Tax Exempt Property Values Rising Along With Valuations

By Staff | Jan 6, 2009

The advent of a new year brings about the start of budgeting work for local governmental entities, including the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. When developing the county’s budget for a fiscal year, the supervisors consider tax revenues from property tax valuations in the county. But, that task is made more challenging by the number of tax-exempt properties that are in the county as well.

Under the Code of Iowa, there are some 20 classifications of property that are exempt from paying property taxes. Those classifications include:

– Urban renewal property including economic development areas;

– Federal and State owned property;

– Municipal and Military property;

– Public grounds and cemeteries;

– Fire equipment and grounds;

– Public securities;

– War veteran associations;

– Cemetery associations;

– Libraries and art galleries;

– Property of religious, literary and charitable societies;

– Educational institutions;

– Homes for soldiers;

– Government lands;

– Public airports;

– Low rent housing;

– Natural conservation and wildlife areas;

– Native prairies and wetlands;

– Public television stations;

– Speculative buildings.

In addition, some other forms of properties, such as those owned by some utilities and railroads, are also exempt from local taxes, but they are assessed taxes by the state.

According to records in Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig’s office, Palo Alto County has a total property tax valuation of $684,783,276, according to the 2008 tax valuation. With tax exempt property totaling of $130,867,390, according to the 2008 county tax valuation, that leaves a valuation of $553,915,886 for a valuation to work with for budgeting purposes. The tax-exempt properties translate into roughly 19 percent of the total tax valuation of the county.

Examining the listing of tax-exempt properties in the county, the educational sector accounts for the largest share of exempt valuations. The four public school districts located in Palo Alto County; Emmetsburg, Ruthven-Ayrshire, Graettinger and West Bend-Mallard, have a combined tax-exempt valuation of $20,110,910. Added to that total is $20,099,450 of exempt valuation for Iowa Lakes Community College facilities, including the college farm, Smith Wellness Center and the college dormitories, for a grand total of $40,210,360.

The various houses of worship throughout the county hold a combined tax-exempt valuation of $26,290,390. That figure is broken down into seven categories. The valuation of actual Church buildings accounts for $19,547,270 of the tax-exempt status, while religious schools account for $2,533,140. Residences which are owned by churches – rectories or parsonages, total $3,325,290 while church-owned cemeteries account for $141,590 and religious recreational property amounts to $743,100.

The various branches of government; federal, state, county and local, hold a combined total of $52,554,100. Of that figure, federal tax-exempt properties, such as federal wetlands, etc., total $470,530. Tax-exempt property owned by the State, such as state parks and facilities for the Department Of Transportation, total $4,314,950.

Palo Alto County itself shows $30,907,530 in tax-exempt facilities, such as the county courthouse, county conservation properties and facilities, such as the Lost Island Nature Center and county road maintenance garages. City governments hold $16,861,090 worth of exempt property, such as parks, swimming pools and airports.

Charitable and Benevolent organizations, including fraternal organizations such as Masonic Temples and Order of the Eastern Star Lodges, along with nursing homes and other senior citizen centers, account for $6,202,700 in the county, while low-rent housing in the county has a total of $1,898,840 in tax-exempt property.

Non-public educational institutions, such as Horizon’s Unlimited, have a tax-exempt valuation of $2,735,350 and the various war veteran’s organizations in the county, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have $926,700 worth of tax exempt valuation while property owned by historical and literary organizations has an exempt valuation of $48,930 in Palo Alto County.