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SIOUX CITY -- When Sioux City homeowners receive their new property assessments in the mail next week, they can expect to see a 10 percent jump in property values on average.

"In residential, we tried to keep it where nothing was going really over the 10 percent," said Sioux City Assessor John Lawson, who said the 2019 assessments are scheduled to be sent Friday. "But if they put on an addition or something and their area of town was going up 10 percent, then they're going to see a larger increase than that."

Multi-residential dwellings, such as apartment houses and conversion properties, also will rise in value by an average of 10 percent. Commercial property will take an even bigger hit, increasing by about 35 percent on average, Lawson said.

State law requires city and county assessors every two years to reset valuations between 95 percent and 105 percent of the fair market price to ensure equity in the property tax system. Assessors consider factors such as local sales, new construction and changes to individual parcels. 

The new assessments, which owners can appeal beginning April 2, will be used to calculate local property taxes for the 2020-21 budget year. The tax levies set by local governments, and other factors, such as the "rollback," a state-imposed limit on assessments, and various state tax credits, also determine whether homeowners pay more or less in taxes.

Property owners will pay taxes on the new assessments in two installments, September 2020 and March 2021.

Lawson said property values are supposed to be based on market value -- as the market increases, property values increase. Residential values vary from house to house and neighborhood to neighborhood, with many increasing, others staying the same, and some actually decreasing.

Sioux City has roughly 28,800 residential and multi-family parcels of land and 3,200 that are industrial, commercial or agricultural.

Lawson took over as city assessor on Dec. 1, 2017, replacing Al Jordan, who served as assessor for the previous 10 years.

The hefty increases in commercial property assessments, Lawson said, were required to comply with state valuation ratios.

"The problem is that because the prior assessor wasn't necessarily raising everyone at the same (rate), the people on the lower end are going to see a much larger increase than the people on the higher end," he said of commercial owners.

Lawson said the market has really pushed commercial property valuations up along the city's major thoroughfares, including Sunnybrook Drive in the Morningside neighborhood. Due to some recent large sales of land, assessed values for undeveloped land also have "increased dramatically." 

The average increase in this year's residential values nearly match the Assessor Office's last round of reassessments in March 2017, when valuations climbed by an average of 11 percent. That was the largest overall increase since the recession of 2007.

Lawson encourages property owners to contact his office before April 1 to discuss their assessments if they have questions. Owners dissatisfied with their appeals can file a formal appeal with the Board of Review from April 2 to April 30. The board will begin hearing cases on May 1. 

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How to file an appeal

Property owners have the right to challenge their new assessments if they believe they are not equitable or assessed for more than state law allows. Other grounds for appeal include tax-exempt property that is misclassified or an error or fraud by the assessor’s office.

Tools on the Sioux City Assessor’s website allow residents to search for similar homes in a neighborhood that sold for less than their own assessment. Residents can search for sales in each of the city’s neighborhoods at woodburycountyiowa.gov/comparable-sales.

Owners can formally appeal their assessments with the Board of Review from April 2 through April 30. Those dissatisfied with the board’s ruling can appeal to the Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board or in U.S. District Court. The former was created in 2005 to provide a free alternative to the costly option of filing in court.

— Dave Dreeszen

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