Are property taxes on the rise?

This is part one of a two-part article. The next Haakon County Commissioner’s meeting is Tuesday, February 4. The public is encouraged to attend.
The Haakon County Commissioners met for their first regular meeting of the 2020 calendar year on Tuesday, January 7.
The first appointment on the agenda was Director of Equalization, Rose Bennett. Bennett presented to the commission a list of tax parcels consisting of good urban sales to use as an example for how underassessed property is within the county. Per the Department of Revenue’s website, all property is to be assessed at full and true value (100%). The parcels presented only show the value being assessed at 58.66%. Bennett explained to the commission she used the current 2019 values for these parcels and even with a 10% increase of only the land, the value would only be brought up to 75.79%, still under the state’s required minimum of 85%. A note to taxpayers: when the county meets the minimum 85%, the state actually allows for a “break” in county taxes, allowing the equalization factor to be set as low as 85%, as long as the county continues to meet the 85-100% requirement.
Bennett continued to explain to the commission that Haakon County has not been fully reassessed for the last 15 years and requested additional office help to perform her office duties, an ongoing request since June 2019. She stated it would take her an estimated 10-15 years to fully reassess Haakon County herself.
Per Bennett, the state requires all parcels to be reassessed yearly, but generally allows three to five years to accomplish this because it is quite the undertaking. She noted Haakon County has gotten quite the “extension” on the requirement but noted at any time the state can choose to intervene.  
What this may mean for Haakon County taxpayers is this, using the previous example given by Bennett of getting values to 75.79%, the state can require the county to do a county-wide increase to bring all parcels to 100% of full and true value (for non-ag property) in order to meet the minimum 85%. Since not all Haakon County parcels have been reassessed on a yearly basis (if added to the tax rolls at all), those whose property has not been assessed since, for example, 1999, will have a much lower value than it should and those who have been reassessed annually, will likely take on the increased tax burden of those under or non-assessed properties by not only having their property taxed at 100% of it’s value, but also seeing a potential additional 15-20% increase on top of that to bring the total county valuation to 85%.
A scenario for that would play out as such: Taxpayer A’s house is valued at $25,000 and hasn’t been reassessed since 1999. There have been multiple remodels and the house, if reassessed, would have a value increased to $80,000. If not, Taxpayer A continues to pay taxes on the $25,000. Taxpayer B has a house valued at $100,000 and has been reassessed yearly and adjusted appropriately. If the state were to intervene and place a county-wide 10% increase, Taxpayer A would still be well under what should be paid in taxes for the remodeled home, while Taxpayer B is paying too much in taxes and essentially paying what Taxpayer A is not.
In regards to new business for 2020, Commissioner Radway was nominated Chairman, Commissioner Snook was nominated Vice-Chair. Regular meetings will still be held on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m.
Various resolutions were discussed and motions made to approve. Chairman Radway asked for some discussion regarding Resolution 2020-03, regarding the number of deputies and secretaries, time of employment and compensation.
Given the information provided by Bennett, Chairman Radway stated he was nervous with the possibility of the state intervening, if the county shouldn’t allow for one full-time deputy in the Director of Equalization office and one full-time deputy in the Register of Deeds office. The request for discussion was met with silence for some time. Commissioner Konst stated he feels the same issues with assessing will arise whether the Director of Equalizations deputy is full or part-time. After this statement, Commissioner Gebes mentioned further talk on the matter may require executive session.
After exiting executive session, Commissioner Konst motioned to accept the resolution as is and make no changes regarding the offices split deputy. Though normally abstaining from voting with regards to the Equalization office, Commissioner Clements voted against the resolution. Other resolutions were discussed and motions were made to approve (see the full minutes). Commissioner Clements was contacted about his reasoning for voting against the resolution. “Because it didn’t work the first time with splitting the deputy and I will not vote for something that does not fix the problem. A half-time, non-certified person cannot fix the issue.”
An application was requested for the DOE’s office and the application states “certification by the South Dakota Department of Revenue, or successful completion of appraisal course within one year of hire.” In previous advertisements for deputy positions,  this certification statement is also listed as a responsibility of the hired individual.
Per Shannon Ritterberger, Pennington County Director/IAAO officer, “South Dakota requires a certification for anyone who is involved in placing a value on a property. You cannot have a non-certified employee making judgement calls that influence value, like quality grade or condition of a structure. A non-certified person can help measure, but it becomes inefficient if your field staff cannot gather all of the data required.”
SDCL 10-3-1.1. Certification required for assessing or appraising officials. No state or county official or any other person charged with the duty of assessing or appraising real property for purposes of taxation may continue in office unless he holds an appropriate certificate issued by the Department of Revenue, upon successful completion of a written examination or has been accepted for enrollment in a certification program to be conducted by the department and approved by the South Dakota Association of Assessing Officers, to be completed within one year. Certification is not required of clerical staff not engaged in field assessing or appraising.
Look to the Public Notices section in this issue of the Pioneer Review to read the full minutes and look for the continuation of this article in next week’s issue.

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
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