The Columbia Chamber of Commerce had two special guest speakers last week: Monroe County assessor candidates Carl Wuertz and Barrie Scott.
Wuertz, a Republican, is the current assessor, and Scott is running against him as a Democrat in the November election.
They were each given time to speak about the county’s real estate tax assessments, along with the operation, policies and procedures of the assessor’s office.
Republican incumbent candidate Wuertz talked about his role in the office and his time as assessor.
Wuertz has been in the assessor’s office for 13 years and has been the supervisor for eight of those years.
He described the process of his job, starting with discovering new parcels of land and buildings on the land.
“Zoning hands us copies of everyone’s building permits and we track those building permits,” he said. “We have a team of two people who measure and photograph every building.”
Wuertz said they then bring the measurements back to the office, where they draw out the building plan and enter it into a computer.
“Our values come from a book from the Illinois Department of Revenue based off of square footage, quality design of homes, along with square foot of patios, decks and porches,” he said. “Everything has its own rate.”
From there, Wuertz goes to the market to look for sales of what he believes are comparable homes, where he makes adjustments based on the comparables.
“Vacant land is valued the same way, based off the sales of other vacant lots,” he said. “This past year, anyone who lives in Columbia probably noticed a change in their land assessment. I did go through year 2013 and rearrange the entire city’s land evaluation process. It’s the first time it’s been done in six years.”
Before, to value land, Wuertz said they would go to the subdivision and make adjustments based on what lots were selling for.
“It was very tedious work
because you had to visit every parcel and change every value,” he said. “This year, I developed something where I can go in and change them based off a square foot rate. I can change the entire city’s land value within an hour now.”
Wuertz said technology has allowed for everything his office does to be accessible to the public on the assessor’s website.
“I like technology and like to keep up with it,” he said. “I’ll experiment to try and get assessments as close to perfect as I can.”
The assessments move from Wuertz’s office to the Illinois Department of Revenue for a tentative state multiplier.
“While we’re waiting on that, all the values go to the Board of Review, at which time homeowners have 30 calendar days to lodge complaints against their assessments,” Wuertz said.
The review board then goes through complaints, and Wuertz said the multiplier usually comes back during that time.
“The numbers then go to the county clerk and go to the state for the final multiplier,” he said. “During that time, the clerk is working on tax rates.”
After the final multiplier comes back, the clerk makes the necessary adjustments and the rate gets sent to the treasurer, who applies it.
When Wuertz finished his recap of the process and how the system works, he talked briefly about how he enjoys his job and the people he has the chance to work with.
Democratic candidate Scott then spoke about why he thinks he is the right man for the job.
Scott said he has been asked a number of times why he is running for the position, and he said there are a number of reasons.
Scott served on the board of review for three years, and said he worked with peoples’ appeals about their assessments.
“I got really into the question ‘why are the assessments the way they are?’” he said. “I felt that the process could be improved. It just didn’t feel right not to be running. I feel like I can make a difference.”
Scott said he believes he can provide the leadership needed to make a difference. His motto for his campaign is “make it right,” and he wants to do just that.
“I think there are a number of things that could be improved,” he said. “I know that from dealing with people from all over the county on their assessments and appeals.”
Scott said he believes he can improve the judgment used to come up with the assessments.
“I want to be available for people to talk to and so they can find out why things are the way they are,” he said. “Service is a big part of the job.”
He said he wants tax bills to come out on time and for them to be fair.
“I can bring a level of professionalism and a knowledge of dealing with people,” Scott said. “I’m a licensed architect and have dealt with all sort of businesses and clients. I know your concerns.”