If you were like me, you opened your mail this week to a major surprise. Unfortunately, this was not a good surprise. The county assessor sent out the new assessments this week and many people were surprised at the 10 to 15 percent increase in their assessments, which will dramatically increase the amount of property tax owed. I have received hundreds of comments this week regarding the huge increases in taxes ahead and I too believe something must be done to address this problem.
Property tax law is one of the most complicated issues in all of state government. Probably the most frustrating thing is citizens do not even know who to blame for the increased taxes. In Ankeny, our school board and city council have done a tremendous job of lowering their tax levies over the last few years, even with the unbelievable growth we are seeing. I understand the anger of the Ankeny citizens when they see their elected officials tout property tax decreases, only to see their overall tax bill increase. The reason this happens is because the city and school lower their rates, but the assessor increases assessments to more than offset the levy decrease.
The most frustrating stories I hear are from longtime Ankeny residents who bought their home 30 or 40 years ago. At the time, it may have been a $50,000 home, but today it is assessed at over $200,000! Many of these citizens are retired and want to remain in their lifelong home in Ankeny. However, they are on fixed incomes and they cannot afford the drastic property tax increases every few years. They are literally being taxed out of the home they have lived in for decades.
This is not fair and we must work to address the drastic increases in property tax. Although I am writing about Senate District 19 in Polk County, I have heard from Iowans all over the state facing the same issue. At a time when state revenues are flat and personal income is not increasing as much as we hope, 10 to 15 percent increases in property taxes are not sustainable.
Throughout the session we have been trying to find ways to reduce the property tax impact on Iowans. Because it is such a complex issue – with eight different taxing authorities in just Ankeny, including the school district, city, Polk County, Broadlawns, DMACC, DART, Polk Co. Ag extension, and a State of Iowa levy – there are no easy solutions.
In the short term, I am working on a bill that will make it easier to appeal your new assessment. We currently have the PAAB (Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board) to appeal your assessment, in addition to your local board of review. This bill would make the hearing more fair for the taxpayer, among other short-term changes.
In the long term, I am committed to continue to work towards a solution, whether it is capping the amount of increase at inflation, making the assessor an elected official so they are accountable to the people, or requiring a retention vote for county assessors.
If you feel your assessment is too high, it is your right to appeal the assessment. You must first appeal to your local board of review. You must file the appeal between April 2 and April 30, so time is of the essence.
This is the number one issue I hear about from my constituents. I want you to know that I hear you and will continue to do everything I can to correct this problem.