Dubuque faces record number of property value assessment appeals - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque faces record number of property value assessment appeals

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The city of Dubuque is facing the largest number of property value assessment appeals since the statewide Property Assessment Appeal Board formed in 2007. However, the very system put in place to protect taxpayers could end up hurting them.

In the office of Dubuque city assessor Rick Engelken lies a thick stack of documents, all to do with the record 102 property value assessment appeals filed this year.

"Even though there's 102 of them, it's really three petitioners," Engelken said.

One is a homeowner. One is the JFK Road Walgreens appealing its assessment. The remaining 100 appeals are split between three Kansas City-area companies but all handled by the same representative, Richard Millspaugh with Savage and Browning, a property tax consulting firm, located in Overland Park, Kan. The three companies are GNZ Housing Cooperative, GNZ Properties Inc. and Dollinc LLC, the owners of the latter listed in an appeal document as Merlin and Darlene Langkamp.

The 100 properties in dispute hold townhomes, condominiums and other rental units.

On behalf of the companies, Millspaugh is asking for a grand total of more than $6 million less than what the city assessed.

Engelken said if the companies win their 100 appeals, which he believes is highly unlikely, city and county entities, such as the school district, would lose that money.

The Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) formed in 2007 to protect property owners from grossly incorrect property value assessments. A look at the 2013 appeals statewide shows the majority of appeals are coming from companies, not individuals.

Since it's free to file an appeal with PAAB, Engelken said he is concerned more widespread appeals may on the horizon.

"We're definitely worried about it," he said. "I've got six people for this whole city of Dubuque. We do all the residential, commercial, industrial property. We don't have time to handle 100 appeals, much less if there was more than that."

He said responding to the high volume of appeals is taking up a significant amount of his time and costing money, which comes from a budget that is funded, of course, by taxpayers.

Dubuque is not alone in the number of appeals. According to PAAB's list of 2013 appeals (which you can view HERE):

Of the 30 Black Hawk County property value assessment appeals listed in Waterloo, 24 are commercial and six are residential. In the city of Cedar Rapids, the 35 appeals are three industrial, 12 residential and 20 commercial. Within Iowa City city limits, the 11 assessment appeals include six commercial properties, four residential and one industrial.

Jerry Maro is president of the Dubuque Area Landlords Association. He said Monday he didn't want to comment specifically on the above situation, but did say Dubuque landlords have complained in recent years how their property taxes seem relatively high compared to other Iowa cities when factoring in the income from rental units. He said rent is lower in Dubuque than in some other Iowa cities.

Overall, Engelken said he's confident the board will rule in favor of the city.

Richard Millspaugh with Savage and Browning did not respond to KWWL reporter Becca Habegger's e-mail or return her call Monday.

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