Property owners seek answers at open book

Violett and Martin Busch of Shawano, right, listen to Joe Griesbach explain the increase in the assessment of their home at the first of three days of the open book at Shawano City Hall, Tuesday. Griesbach is president of Associated Assessments of Appleton, which conducted the reassessment of city properties.

By Amy Weaver

Leader Reporter

Bob and Audrey Greub of Shawano said they just wanted to know how their property value increased so much.

"We were just curious," Audrey said. "It was much more than we expected, so we wanted to check on it."

Bob said the value of their home increased about 47 percent since Associated Appraisal Consultants, Inc. of Appleton recently conducted a reassessment of the property in the city.

They had their questions answered and concerns addressed by Associated Appraisal representatives and assessors Tuesday during informal open book hearings. The company will hold hearings again today and Thursday at city hall.

Bob said they were told their property value increased because overall, property in Shawano increased since the last reassessment in 1994.

"We really can't complain," he said.

Overall, the property value in Shawano increased an average of 45 percent, according to senior project manager Lee DeGroot. Residential property increased 47 percent, while commercial property value went up about 40 percent, he said.

The reassessment was done because Wisconsin law requires that properties be assessed at their full market value, DeGroot said.

In 1999 the average of all properties was at 74 percent, as determined by the Department of Revenue. The reassessment should have increased the value to 100 percent of market value, DeGroot said.

Property values have generally gone up in Shawano since the last reassessment in 1994, city assessor Bill Guelzow said so the assessment was done to redistribute the taxes being paid among those who made improvements to their property and those who haven't.

Guelzow said the percentage is determined by comparing the latest assessment to the selling price. The ratio is hopefully at 100 percent now, but he said the city won't know until houses start to sell with the new assessment. Then the state will determine a new ratio.

In conducting appraisals, DeGroot said the two biggest factors in determining value is square footage and age because the reassessment will be based on what comparable homes of size and age sell for.

Plus, the condition of the home how well it is kept up will be compared to the age as well to help determine value, he said.

Other factors on value are the number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and improvements made to the kitchen, he said.

Homes with only one bedroom or bathroom will have a detrimental effect on the value than a home with four bedrooms or two bathrooms because they'll be harder to sell, DeGroot explained.

However, the most value can come from improvements made to the kitchen and bathroom, he said.

The numbers that Associated Appraisal developed are all relative to the market and what will sell.

Vice president John Holtan said their figures were based on the sales of property in Shawano in the past three years and what they found from conducting internal inspections in over 95 percent of the city's structures.

Although over 170 appointments were made for the three-day open hearing, DeGroot said some property owners will just come to find out how the value was determined, like the Greubs, and some will come because they are angry at the increase.

For those people that are upset and believe the reassessment was incorrect, DeGroot suggested they bring any information to the open book hearing which would play a factor in the property value.

Associated Appraisal would then review the information more closely and determine if the value would lower or remain the same. If property owners are still unsatisfied with the value, DeGroot said they can appeal to the Board of Review. It is not necessary to go to the open book hearing to appeal to the Board, DeGroot said. It is just encouraged because it gives the assessors a chance to explain how they determined the amount.

The Board of Review works like a court as if the property owner is the plaintiff and the assessor is the defendant. The assessor is correct until proven wrong, DeGroot said, so the property owner must present facts to convince the Board the assessor was incorrect.

If property owners are still unsatisfied with the Board's decision, they can appeal to the Department of Revenue, but DeGroot said this is uncommon. Petitioners must pay $100 to appeal to the Department, he said. If they win, the money is refunded, but if they lose, the Department keeps it.

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