Officials explain reappraisal during town hall
EVART – Tax records for the City of Evart aren't matching up and officials want to correct it the quickest and most efficient way possible.
It means properties for residents and business owners will be reappraised in an effort to update, correct and computerize the city's tax rolls, said City Treasurer/Assessor Sarah Dvoracek during a town hall meeting on Thursday at City Hall.
Set to begin in a few weeks, the reappraisals mean complete physical inspection of properties, including measuring the perimeter and story heights of all structures, interviews with owners and occupants and information exchanges, at a cost of about $25,000 for the city.
Joining Dvoracek for the town hall were Shila Kiander, equalization director for Mecosta County who performed an audit on city tax records and is serving as a consultant, City Council member B.J. Foster and assessors Brian Hoekema and Seth Lattimore to answer questions and concerns from the handful of residents who turned out for the town hall meeting.
Lattimore, a Level II Michigan Certified Assessing Officer with three years experience as a property inspector for the state, is performing the field work for the reappraisal.
Foster explained city officials first noticed issues with the tax rolls when Dvoracek began looking at 20 parcels of land and found there to be discrepancies.
“(Dvoracek) came into this and it was a real can of worms,” he said. “Eighty percent of them had errors. We, as a council thought 'If there was that many in just those 20, how many more are out there?'”
In her duties as assessor, Dvoracek said she is required to assess 20 percent of each class' tax rolls each year, so all properties are inspected once every five years.
“There were a lot of errors when I started looking through them and they have to be corrected,” she said.
Kiander explained the city tax records include items called hard cards, which have drawings, measurements and parcel descriptions. Some of them date back to the 1970s.
A reappraisal will compare the hard card with what is actually on the property, Kiander said.
“If it's already on the hard card, the assumption is you've already been paying taxes on it,” she said. “If something is on a hard card and it's not there, it's not going to add anything to the taxable value. The only thing that will add anything is if it isn't on the hard card. For the majority of everybody, it's probably not going to be much and probably won't raise your taxes.”
The city's tax rolls have to be correct in order for officials to perform the Audit of Minimum Assessing Requirements (AMAR) to the state, Dvoracek said.
“The City of Evart was up for its AMAR audit this year,” she said. “I wrote the State Tax Commission and asked for it to be postponed until 2018 after the reassessment is done”
If the AMAR had taken place, Dvoracek said the city would have failed.
“The State Tax Commission can come in and seize the tax rolls,” she said. “It would cost the city lots of money to get it back because they would hire their own assessors to do it.”
The city's cost of the reappraisal, Lattimore said, is about a quarter of what the state would charge.
“(Dvoracek) is getting ahead of the situation,” he said. “They are saving a lot of money before the blue shirts show up and the price goes really high.”
Though certified to handle the reappraisal, Kiander explained to residents a reappraisal doesn't fall into Dvoracek's normal duties as an assessor.
“To do the reassessments and then computerize everything isn't her normal job,” she explained. “It's hard to live in two places, with one foot in the computer age and one foot in the hard cards. They don't match. They don't match what's out in the real world. Juggling all of this is not the normal assessing job.
“The 20 percent (Dvoracek) would normally do each year assumes you have good records to begin with.”
When it comes to property taxes, residents and business owners expressed concerned about possible increases in their tax bills.
Kiander said the recently completed reappraisal of 955 parcels in Middle Branch Township by Hoekema and herself resulted in an increase of taxable value of $1.8 million.
“That includes new construction that wasn't found on the tax rolls before," she said. "However, it also includes things that were taken off the tax rolls that are no longer there.”
Kiander explained Evart has many older houses and there aren't too many new constructions.
“I would assume many of your properties aren't going to add a lot of taxable value,” she said. “Some might take it off. But if something is there that's never been assessed, you'll be paying taxes on it next year.
“If 80 percent of the 20 cards she looked at were wrong, I would assume there will be a lot of corrections. But not all of it will add to the taxable value.”
Foster said he believes Dvoracek has gone above what council members expected the job to be when she first began.
“She's trying to get it straight and level,” he said. “I don't think any of the council members thought, 'Let's go through this to raise revenue by 1 percent or 50 percent. Let's get it the way it's supposed to be. Let's be fair."
Residents with questions can contact Dvoracek at (231) 734-2181 or by emailing Sarah.email@example.com.