Assessor explains property value increase

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Monroe County Assessor Carl Wuertz

Despite many tax rates throughout Monroe County remaining steady or dropping slightly, many residents, particularly in Waterloo, may have been surprised by some of the totals on their property tax bill. 

The simple reason for that is that the assessed value of property in the county increased 5.54 percent, so the Republic-Times spoke with Monroe County Assessor Carl Wuertz to provide readers a deeper understanding of why that happened. 

“Generally speaking, it’s because home prices are increasing,” Wuertz said of why assessed values went up. “Your assessment is what we believe to be one-third of market value, so if people are paying more for homes, then I’m going to increase assessed value to try to keep up with home value.” 

To assess homes, the county assessor’s office uses a mix of techniques, with the main two being examining myriad studies on real estate sales in the county and reassessing a portion of the property in the county each year. 

In this case, the sales studies were the main cause of the increased values. 

Property is divided for those studies based on the age of the property, its story height and location both in terms of what town it is in and where it is within that town. 

For example, Wuertz said his office may study a group of single-story homes built in the 2000s in a given area to see how they have sold compared to their assessed value.

“You could have a 10-year-old home that’s sold for a lot more than its prior year’s assessment, and that’s going to try to cause that neighborhood’s study or that group of aged homes to go up,” he explained. 

Wuertz also clarified that individuals upgrading their property does not usually drive large increases in assessed value. 

“Putting additions on your home will only increase your assessed value,” he said. 

Wuertz’s office considers sales studies countywide each year, but it only looks at a specific quadrant of the county every year to reassess the value of property in that area.

For 2019’s property taxes, which are payable this year, the assessor’s office focused on Waterloo. 

Wuertz said that may at least partially explain why some Waterloo residents saw their assessed values increase, as reassessed quadrants often see a jump in value. 

That often happens because everyone who appealed their assessment and won the last time their quadrant was reassessed had their assessment frozen until Wuertz’s office examined that quadrant again. 

“So I take that frozen value away and it goes right back to what I think market value is,” Wuertz summarized. “So it’s very possible that the quadrants we review see larger increases, mainly for those board-reviewed decisions.” 

This year, the quadrant the assessor’s office is reassessing is Columbia. That means residents in that city should expect possibly seeing a similar increase for 2020 taxes payable in 2021. 

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