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Assessor’s Budget Receives Preliminary Approval

By Staff | Feb 9, 2016

With uncertainty over the costs of health insurance as a major factor, Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig presented a budget of $269,908 for Fiscal 2016-2017 during the meeting of the Palo Alto County Conference Board Thursday, Feb. 4. The proposed budget saw an increase of $7,637 over the current year’s budget of $262,271.

Conference Board members on hand for the meeting included County Supervisors Keith Wirtz, Linus Solberg, Ron Graettinger and Craig Merrill, as well as Supervisor Ed Noonan participating by telephone. Also in attendance were Cylinder Mayor Arnold Heng, West Bend Mayor Marilyn Schutz, Mallard Mayor Jim Gehrt and school board representative Dan Chism of the Emmetsburg Community School District.

In her report to the members of the Conference Board, Naig noted that during 2015, a total of 46 protests were filed with the county’s Board of Review over real property assessments. Of those protests, seven individuals requested oral hearings with the Review Board. Out of the 46 protests, the board upheld 17 while 29 were denied.

Protests regarding agricultural property were filed by 20 individuals, while 19 individuals protested their urban residential assessments, with seven protests filed for rural residential properties.

As a result of the protests, a total of $355,360 in real estate protests were reduces, while recommendations to assessments totaled $44,990, for a total decrease of $400,350 in assessments.

As of July 1, 2015, Naig and her staff in the Assessor’s Office had conducted assessments on 16,238 parcels of property in the county. Those assessments included 337,031 acres of Agricultural Lands at an assessed value of $749,506,720.

Assessments for Agricultural buildings in the county totaled $54,851,790, while a total of 753 dwellings on agricultural land were assessed at a total of $55,432,090. Rural residential buildings, or non-agriculture related, totaled 559 and were assessed at a total of $86,470,780, while 2,766 urban residential properties were assessed at a total of $209,965,300, countywide.

A total of 364 commercial properties were assessed at $74,993,330, with 42 multi-residential properties assessed at $8,746,600 and 26 industrial properties received a total assessment of %71,797,455. Overall, Palo Alto County had a total taxable valuation of $1,311,764,065. That amount does not include any property owned by utility companies or railroads that are assessed by the Iowa Department of Revenue.

The Conference board then considered a vacancy on the Examining Board with the expiration of the term of Dan Stokes on Dec 31, 2015.

“Dan had indicated he wanted to step down, but he did say that he would be willing to serve one more term,” Naig told the group. “Currently, we have Arlet Johnson and Sharon Hobart on the Examining Board, and their terms expire in 2020.”

With little discussion, the Conference Board members approved the appointment of Dan Stokes of Mallard to another term on the Examining Board to expire Dec. 31, 2021.

Turning to the budget, Naig pointed out the areas of increase were for salaries, but that because the total amount of Health Insurance costs were still unknown, her original estimate of $40,248 might be lower than it should be. However, there were also decreases in dental and life insurance costs for the coming year.

After discussing the unknowns of the Health insurance costs, the board agreed to a proposed budget in the amount of $269,908 for the coming fiscal year and with a motion by Supervisor Ron Graettinger and second from Mayor Marilyn Schutz, the proposed budget was approved to reflect a four percent increase in salary and insurance.

“If those come in lower, my final budget will be lowered to reflect that,” Naig assured the group.

With no further comments, the board then set 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8 in the Supervisor’s Board Room of the courthouse as the time and date for the final public hearing on the Assessor’s Budget.