By Dennis Minich
If you are a property owner in Cass County, chances are almost certain you recently received a notification that your assessed property value has increased significantly. But Cass County Assessor Roger Raffety said not to panic, the new values do not necessarily mean your taxes are increasing.
“The taxes are based on the levies by the various taxing entities. The assessment is just a determination of what your property is worth,” he said.
The increases affected about 44,500 parcels of the approximate 50,000 parcels in the county. The exceptions were mostly vacant agriculture, commercial or tax-exempt property.
The increased assessments ranged from 5 to 15 percent depending on the part of the county. The largest increases came in the county’s larger school districts.
Raffety said there are two major reasons for the significant jumps.
“First, there is a correction in the market because values have been going up since 2009, about 6.5 percent per year. Also, property has been selling so good that many properties are assessed about 78 percent of their market value,” he said.
This is not new. Raffety said assessments were so low that in 2006 when housing market crashed, it drove home prices down to where their assessments were. Assessments are done in odd years so when working on values, the assessor has to be looking ahead one year.
Although he said he has had complaints about the increase, much of the county is still appraised lower than it should be.
“The state sets the requirements. Assessments are supposed to based on 100 percent of its market value. We have to be within 5 percent above or below. To have gotten to that point we would have raised the values even more, probably 15 to 25 percent countywide,” he said.
Raffety said the county received a memorandum of understanding from the state tax commission acknowledging the values are under the requirements and will reexamine the rates in 2021.
Again, Raffety emphasized the assessed value does not dictate taxes. There are 133 different levies in Cass County and it is up to each to determine their rates. Because of limits on tax increases, many levies will be reduced simply because their current rates would raise taxes too much.