County appraiser's office has to follow state protocol

Cell towers don't qualify for tax rebate

Marion County Commission asked for an explanation Monday from Marion County Appraiser Cindy Magill regarding the amount of compensatory time earned by her employees.

Magill gave the commission copies of a report for the past three years, showing the trend of the amount of hours employees' worked.

"I wish we could cut it back some," commissioner chairman Bob Hein said.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked Magill to describe the work employees were doing to account for the comp time numbers.

State requirements dictate the office's work schedule.

Magill explained that valuations are determined in January and February of each year for more than 12,000 parcels with notices being sent in March.

After notices are mailed, office personnel receive numerous telephone calls from taxpayers who have questions about the valuations. When taxpayers do question their valuations, packets of information are compiled and mailed to them. Hearings then are scheduled.

Phones are ringing, Magill said, until April 14.

During that time, personal property valuations have to be compiled.

From April 1 to May 1, personnel prepare gas lease values. In the meantime, staff members answer phones, gather information, and wait on customers. Another employee does property splits when parcels are sold while another employee keeps up with the current sales of properties.

Each year the appraiser is required to do a physical assessment of all properties at least once every six years. Field work begins June 15 and Magill said it's completed by September.

Commissioner Randy Dallke asked the appraiser what it was going to take for property owners in some towns to not see increases in taxes when properties are not being improved or houses are being sold?

Holub responded that part of the problem was the computer software which is issued as a "one size fits all" but doesn't.

"Marion County is not the same as Johnson County," Holub said.

Magill said when people come in for a hearing to protest their valuations, she asked them their opinions of their property values. She continued that some hearings have been canceled after owners have reviewed comparisons and determined theirs was correct.

"The state's equation for market value does not take into consideration how long the house has been on the market," Magill said.

Dallke asked how many Marion County taxpayers have taken their cases to the state appeals board. Magill responded probably four or five.

In other business:

— County zoning administrator Bobbi Strait said she had been asked if cell towers qualified for the county's neighborhood revitalization rebate program. A building permit for a tower on Remington Road has a construction estimate of $95,000 for the tower and $45,000 for exterior equipment.

Marion County Clerk Carol Maggard said a former county appraiser at one time had put all of the cell towers on the tax roll because state law wasn't clear but then had to remove them all.

She continued that utilities are state-assessed and the county receives a portion of that assessment instead of the county doing the assessing.

— Magill announced that Deborah Weidenheimer had been hired as a deputy appraiser with a starting salary of $2,529 per month.

— Magill requested and received a five-minute executive session to discuss personnel. There were no decisions when the meeting reconvened.

— Marion County Surface Water Board will meet at 7 p.m. April 16 when Neil Whitaker will do a presentation about the water draw-down plan at Marion Reservoir.

It was determined that the board will meet quarterly instead of monthly because a sufficient number of those who were appointed to the board were not able to attend meetings and it was difficult to have a quorum to attend to business.

The next commission meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday at the courthouse.