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Some DeKalb residents still upset with new property assessments; many receive reductions

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DEKALB JUNCTION — Approximately 80 percent of property owners in the town of DeKalb who protested their new property assessment were successful at getting their valuations reduced, but some landowners are still upset.

Town Assessor C. Bruce Green conducted a townwide revaluation this year, prompting an outcry of complaint from more than 100 residents who saw steep hikes in their assessments. “This was a good compromise,” Mr. Green said, noting the final roll should be filed with the state next week. “The Board of Assessment Review did a real good job getting to a middle ground.”

As a result of the revaluation, the town’s total taxable assessed value for 2013 is expected to increase by about $20 million over the 2012 level, which was $82,877,850, Mr. Green said.

Based on property sales, the market value of the town’s farmland has been rising for the past few years and the assessments reflect that trend, he said.

The value of corn and soybean crops has helped fuel the increase. Several Amish families from outside the area have moved into the town and have been willing to pay higher prices for land while some non-Amish farmers have also expanded their operations.

“Land is valuable and people are willing to pay for that land,” Mr. Green said.”Last year alone there were four or five Amish sales. They’re new Amish coming in and they’re willing to pay higher prices.”

While some property owners may face higher property tax bills, others may actually see their bill reduced because the town’s tax rate will decrease, the assessor said.

After Mr. Green released the tentative tax roll this spring, dozens of landowners protested their new assessments. Some saw their property values increase by 200 percent or more.

Owners of agriculture parcels, woodlots and pastureland saw the steepest hikes.

Grievances were filed on 155 of the town’s 1,470 properties. An extra grievance night was held to handle the overflow of complaints.

Mr. Green agreed to lower assessments on 29 of the parcels through signed stipulation agreements with the owners. The town’s five-member Board of Assessment Review considered the other 126 parcels.

The high volume of protests required the town’s Board of Assessment Review to hold a second grievance night to handle the overflow.

The majority of those who filed grievances have been notified that their assessments have been lowered in the range of 10 to 25 percent compared with the tentative 2013 roll.

Those who are still unhappy can file an appeal in small claims court.

Kenneth S. Masters Jr., Route 812, said he is among those who may take that route.

In the tentative roll, the assessment on his 595 acres increased from $245,400 to $598,800. After he met with Mr. Green, the assessor agreed to lower the assessment to $515,000.

Mr. Masters then went to the grievance board which lowered it to $461,690, which is 188 percent higher than his 2012 assessment.

“I could barely afford to pay the taxes last year,” he said. “I’m concerned about my neighbors and the farmers. They did reduce assessments some, but I don’t think it was enough.”

He said he feels landowners shouldn’t be penalized based on a few farm sales.

“They’re using a few farms that sold for high prices and punishing all of us,” Mr. Masters said.

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