County Equalization deals with mess of Langdon assessments

The Cavalier County Commissioners held their County Equalization meeting to a packed house on June 2, and met with residents until almost 9:30 p.m. 

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Posted on 6/6/15

By Melissa Anderson

“All taxpayers were given the opportunity to meet with the commissioners and discuss their issues[with their assessment],” Lisa Gellner, Cavalier County Auditor, stated.

Cavalier County Tax Director, Pam Lafrenz, had 50 people from Langdon alone already on a list to address mistakes and inconsistencies on their residential property assessments before the meeting day. The audience present at the equalization meeting numbered over 30 by the time the meeting began.

Commission chair Rick Ring opened the meeting by stating to those in attendance that the commission would be sending a letter to the City of Langdon giving the commissioners until August 3, 2015 to find a new assessor and create a plan to reassess the city so that equality and fairness takes place in future assessments.

If the city commission does not do as requested by the county commission, the county commission will use a petition that has been filed to move forward themselves in finding an assessment company to re-assess the City of Langdon. The cost for doing this would be taken from city funds that are provided by the county.

The county commission also made it clear that the 2015 assessments are legal and binding. The commission stressed to many who were upset about the assessment that once the reassessment of the city takes place that those that see a decrease in assessed value can file for an abatement.

“Pay your 2015 taxes now, and if your assessment is lowered, file for an abatement,” Gellner said.

Gellner also explained the City of Langdon has not yet addressed how or if the 705 increases in property assessments will affect the city’s budget. How the city budgets the upcoming fiscal year will determine if other taxes, such as the school mill levy, may decrease.

“There are variables that could make the taxes not as bad as people are expecting,” Gellner stated.

Lafrenz stated that all the other cities in Cavalier County had little to no change in their property assessments and that no complaints had been filed previous to the meeting.

The county commission then moved forward with stating what assessments they would review and that would have the best chance of having adjustments made to them.

The commission set the parameters that assessments with incorrect information on the property cards were more likely to be adjusted. Some examples of the commonly brought forward complaints were two car garages that are actually one car, bathrooms in places there were none, and if basements were finished or unfinished.

The commission also prepared for those who disagreed with their assessed value and would be bringing in appraisals as proof. The commission agreed that only appraisals that had occurred within the last year would be accepted.

Gellner explained that many residents who came to the equalization meeting were more than happy to pay their taxes so long as things were fair. But when residents began comparing their property assessments, they realized that they were not fair.

“The [assessment] sheets that were given out are a real mystery as far reasoning goes for the increases. Lots of increases were made to properties without any work having been done,” Gellner stated.

Those present for the equalization meeting did their best to make the meeting go as smoothly as possible for not only themselves but for the county commissioners as well.

“For the most part, people were very understanding because they knew it wasn’t the counties fault,” Gellner said.

Seventy-seven total parcels located in the City of Langdon were reviewed by the commission. The townships, which are required to be reviewed after the cities, were last to be addressed. Three reviews, two from the City of Langdon and one township, were tabled in order for Lafrenz to give them a more in-depth review. The commission will then reconvene the Equalization Meeting and finish these last three at 8 a.m. on June 16.

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