Recent assessment shows increasing property values in Jefferson County

    Brian Starnes, who owns Fesler Auto Mall in Fairfield, is one of several business owners affected by the latest assessment/KTVO

    Property owners in Jefferson county are concerned about how much money they'll have to pay in taxes following the latest reappraisal.

    Brian Starnes owns Fesler Auto Mall in Fairfield said he was shocked to see his property value had increased by more than 60 percent.

    "They're attempting to raise my property valuation by $464,000,” Starnes said. "I've never heard, in this county, or any counties, of an attempted increase of that magnitude."

    Starnes has spoken with several neighboring property owners who are also seeing a substantial increase.

    "In reappraisal projects, there can be quite drastic changes," said Jefferson County Assessor Steve Wemmie.

    Jefferson County hired Cedar Rapids-based Vanguard Appraisals to carry out the latest assessment.

    "They don't look at prior values because they don't want to be influenced,” Wemmie said. “It's about being fair and equitable. So they value things without knowing what the change will be."

    Increased amounts range from 20 percent to 60 percent.

    "There were some properties that saw decreases in their values,” said Vanguard President Robert Ehler. “Not everybody went up.”

    Iowa law requires commercial buildings and properties to be assessed at market value.

    "So if someone's property changes significantly in value, it was because our determination was that the market value was higher than the old assessment,” Ehler said.

    Starnes tells KTVO he set the market value when he purchased his property two years ago, which is why the proposed amount took him by surprise.

    "A 62 percent increase in property valuation above what I purchased the property for in late fall of 2017," Starnes said.

    Starnes and several other businesses owners brought their concerns to Vanguard this month.

    "We did make some adjustments into value on some of the assessments, based on information we received at the hearings," Ehler said.

    The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors also met with concerned property owners during its regular meeting this week.

    "There were several here (Monday) who had a significant increase in their assessments," Wemmie said.

    The Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) joined the conversation Monday.

    "This is incredibly shocking for some of our businesses, and probably not doable for many of them," said FEDA's Executive Director Joshua Laraby. "We have to take a look at, what are the next steps to see what we can do about the new evaluations, and make sure they're accurate for our local businesses."

    Property owners can appeal these changes, but must do so by April 30.

    Jefferson county's last commercial reappraisal was done in 2008.

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