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City property owners see big jump in taxable values

Posted 4/07/15 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

As a result of the oil boom, properties around Watford City, both commercial and residential, continue to see their values increase. And along with increases in property valuations comes increases in those property taxes. On March 20, city property owners began receiving official notifications from the city assessor’s office on what those increases would actually look like.
“The majority of the properties saw an increase this year,” said Rita Olson, city assessor. “Commercial saw a bigger hit than residential though. I increased the land amount, or each individual property. I had a formula I ran on every parcel in town so it wasn’t across the board. Every individual parcel went through that specific formula. As a result, everyone whose property value increased by 10 percent or by more than $3,000 was notified by letter of the increase in taxable valuation.”
This increase in land property valuation doesn’t necessarily mean property owners will get big tax increases. According to Olson, that is an amount that she cannot determine right now because the tax will be based on the requested mill levy by the city, county, and school districts set in the budget later this fall.
“When we have that much value,” states Olson, “it should push the mills down.”
Every year on Feb. 1, the city assessor’s office has to look at the values of every property. And according to Olson, the state looks at the city’s sales. The state requires that the city have its assessments between 90 and 100 percent of that market value.
“The market is a little crazy right now,” says Olson. “And I don’t set the market value. That is determined by the buyers and sellers. For example, I am looking at two properties right now. In 2010, both of these properties were at about 50 percent. From then until now, those same properties are at 150 percent, just shy of doubling in value, which I don’t think is too bad because properties just don’t come in at less than $100,000 today.”
In determining new assessed valuation rates, Olson says they have to compare the sales and where the low ratios are and that’s where she says they need to make the changes. And the only changes made this year weren’t made to the homes, they were made to the land. As far as land value prices, residential property was all figured at $4 per square foot for land. The value then starts to drop depending on location. For example, a property closer to Main Street is going to be valued a lot higher than a property a few blocks north of Main Street.
“Land seems to be such a hot commodity right now,” says Olson. “And there’s so much of it. I just don’t understand why we have to pay so much for it.”
However, according to Olson, if property owners had obsoletes added for a deduction, over-sized lots, or added different characteristics to their property, etc., those property owners were given a lot more of a break in their taxable values.
 “I think that knowing your investment today is worth more than when you bought it, is a positive thing for property owners,” says Olson. “Two months ago, I would have said we had a strong housing market. But houses are staying on the market a little bit longer. They’re still selling, but they’re staying on the market longer. I think next year at this time we’re going to be seeing a whole different picture. I think values will start going the other direction - they’ll start to come down a little. All of this, of course, is depending on what the oil and gas market is doing.”
According to Olson, the entire county will be having a re-appraisal done by Vanguard Appraisals, Inc., and they are going to have appraisers on the ground in the next couple of weeks, going door to door. She feels this is a good thing because everything will be equalized at this time next year.
“It will be fair because you will know that everyone is paying the same thing as everyone else,” says Olson.
According to Olson, if persons are in disagreement with the new assessed value of their property in the city limits, they will have an opportunity to share their concerns at a Board of Equalization Meeting which will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, at the Watford City City Hall.