The Cavalier County Commissioners had an extensive discussion with the Langdon City Assessor Mel Carsen and the Langdon City Auditor Connie Schrader at the recent abatement hearing for Devon Johnson and Austin Lafrenz.
Posted on 5/9/15
By Melissa Anderson
The commission reviewed the assessment information provided by Carsen and listened to his explanations on how he assesses residential properties within the City of Langdon.
Carsen once again explained that the reason the property owners in the City of Langdon are seeing such dramatic increases of 30-50 percent in their properties assessed value is a result of the assessments not being kept up-to-date coupled with booming selling prices of homes within and around the City of Langdon.
“Many homes are based on their reflective age. All appraisers use reflective age,” Carsen stated.
The commission had reviewed information provided by Cavalier County Tax Director Pam Lafrenz on the inconsistent method of assessments.
The commission agreed that the city assessor must be held accountable for his assessments, which seem to be all over the board.
Carsen’s explanations for his methods were like his work, all over the board, one instance being his contradicting himself by stating past data is not used but that it does play a part in how current assessments are done.
Carsen stated that over the past three years that he has been working on residential assessments that increases have only been around 8 percent. Commissioner Nick Moser pointed out that one abatement request had a 20 percent increase.
Commissioner Tom Borgen called the City of Langdon to determine how much of the assessed value is taxed and was informed that the percentage is 1.25 percent.
The duration of the assessments was also concerning the commission as this is the third year in which assessments have been raised.
Schrader informed the commission that Carsen only works part-time on the city assessments.
Borgen asked why he does not work full-time, and if he was unwilling to work full-time, why the city has not found a new assessor to complete the assessments in a more timely manner.
“Why should we?” Schrader responded.
From 2011 to date, the City of Langdon has not held its state mandated City Equalization meeting on the state mandated second Tuesday in April.
The City of Langdon has not reviewed how much the recent increases will accrue in added income for the city, if the mills will be reduce as a result of the increase, or what the income will be used for.
According to Schrader, the commercial properties have been monitored by Carsen for the last few years but have not had any assessment increases in several years.
Carsen was originally the assessor for commercial properties for the city before being approached by Schrader to assist in the assessments of residential properties.
“I wait for Mel to do anything,” Schrader said.
Schrader informed the paper that according to Carsen, the assessments will not need to be redone unless specific properties undergo an improvement requiring a building permit.
In research conducted by the Cavalier County Republican, the state requires that assessments occur every year in the month of February. Assessors have until April 1 to review properties and insure they are within the 90 percent ratio of true and full value.
While a physical review is not necessary unless an improvement is made to the property, city assessors typically conduct a mass assessment using the sales data from the previous year to compare the selling price of homes to similar homes to insure that all of the homes within a city are accurately assessed.
The assessor uses the following main comparison points to adjust:
• Time, how recent is the sale?
• Location, how close is the comparable to the subject property?
• Physical characteristics, how similar is the comparable to the subject property in size, shape and components?
According to state guidelines, the sales comparison method is one of the more accurate methods of estimating the value of homes.
This method compares a property being appraised to similar properties that have recently sold and is indicative of the real estate market in the area.
If residents feel that they have been unfairly assessed, the process of abatement is the method by which they appeal the increase. If the property owner is not satisfied with the verdict of the city, they can take their case the county commission.
According to ND Century Code 57-14-08, the Cavalier County Commission can order a new property tax assessment upon investigation, or if 10 property owners file a complaint with the county.
The county then can submit bids or for a special assessor to come in and conduct the new assessments within the city.
While the county would pay for the new assessments to be conducted, the county treasurer is authorized to withhold the cost of the new assessment from a future distribution of funds to the city that was reassessed.
Lafrenz and Commission Chair Rick Ring met with States Attorney Scott Stewart to discuss what the county can do. Stewart will further look into what the county can do to address the issues with the City of Langdon assessments.