April 28th, 2010
It is really a crying shame that county politics is not as open as everyone thinks it is. County politics is a case of if you don’t ask, I won’t tell. You can say that the county is not open in their transactions on a daily basis, but they will always tell you ‘but it was in the paper.’ My answer is ‘yes, but not on a real time basis. Not everybody reads the legal section of the paper on a regular basis.’ Maybe after this article is published, your interests will peak and that answer will change.
Do you remember many, many articles ago that I said that I love conspiracies? I am going to piece some parts of the puzzle together and you might just be amazed at the outcome.
Let’s talk about property taxes. One thing that everyone is interested in is their property taxes. I’m sure the situation is the same in Iowa as it is here in Union County. Right now we are seriously strapped for money. Now the only way one can raise money in South Dakota is by property tax since we don’t have an income tax. Our taxes are frozen at 3%. Now we have two options if we want to bring in some money for expenses and overhead without going over the 3% limit. One way is to opt out and the other is to raise the valuation on the property therefore getting more money next year and not exceed the 3% figure. Union County is poised to do both.
In Union County, the commissioners have been talking seriously for the last two months about opting out of the tax freeze because the county is almost broke. Well, maybe not broke but they are running out of money to pay the cost of keeping the roads in good repair, especially the oil roads. In the ‘Big Plan,’ the county has 180 miles of paved roads and according to the highway superintendant , Ray Roggow, paved roads have a 20 year life span, and if the county redoes 18 miles of road a year then the roads will be in good state and everything is fine. There is only one problem, inflation and frozen property tax. As an example, last year the county only redid 4 miles of road because of the rising cost of asphalt. Now this puts them 14 miles behind the power curve for this year, and the expenses keep climbing. The only solution that the commission can come up with is to opt out of the tax freeze and this will bring in $248,000 to pay for the roads. They had talked about doing this in time for the primary election but didn’t get it submitted in time for the primary ballot, (on purpose??) $so it will have to be on the November ballot UNLESS they vote to opt out by July 1st. now here is the kicker. If they opt out by the 1st of July, in order to stop it, the residents of the county will have to circulate a petition and refer it to a special election. If there is no referral it becomes a done deal. Has anyone on the commission said anything to the public about this? They have but it has been really quiet. It has been published in the legal section of the papers, but evidently everyone has overlooked this because nobody is raising a question about it. Or better yet, nobody knows about this and the commissioners are keeping quiet about it. Evidently they think nobody will take the time or trouble to circulate petitions, so they are home free, and the highway department will have its money.
The other way to raise money is by raising the assessed value of your home and your land. I believe that everyone’s assessment went up by 20-25% for next year. In Beresford, all homes that are over ten years old had their assessment raised by 9%. Not much you can do about that EXCEPT go to your township board and have your assessment revised. Ah, back to the conspiracy. When the township boards met with the Union County State’s Attorney back in March, he directed that the boards scrutinize the objections very closely. He didn’t want to see any paperwork come before the commissioners on reducing the assessed values. He told the township boards that they were the “Gatekeepers” for the county and it was their job to make sure this doesn’t happen. Somebody forgot to tell Dakota Dunes. (Why do I keep picking on the people at the Dunes?) Here are a few examples of the Dunes objections to the assessments.
1. Current value $159,328 change to $132,940 (-$26,388)
2. Current value $7,916 change to $3,589 (-$4,327) purchased at sheriff sale $305
3. Current value $144,505 change to $134,348 (-$10,157)
4. Current value $144,506 change to $134,349 (-$$10,157)
5. Current value $185,000 change to $142,282 (-$42,718)
6. Current value $216,061 change to $211,000 (-$5,061) value too high
7. Current value $456,585 change to $399,120 (-$57,465) higher than cost of new construction
8. Current value $471,273 change to $433,737 (-$37,536) added an addition
9. Current value $260,080 change to $245,000 (-$15,080) sales value lower
10. Current value $316,480 change to $273,090 (-$42,390) increased above fair market value
11. Current value $213,587 change to $195,500 (-$$18078) value more than purchase price.
Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but just those 11 properties reduced their value by a total of $269,366. Can you imagine how many more there are? Look at some of the rationale for reducing the assessed value. #8 added an addition. Doesn’t that increase the value of a home? #7 higher than cost of new construction. DUH! The housing market is way down. How about #10 increased above fair market value. I still don’t understand that one. Or #11, value more than purchase price. I thought homes appreciated at least 10% a year in value. Am I losing this somewhere in the translation?
The whole point I’m trying to show is what the county is doing. What else is going on?