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Marion Business Frets Layoffs After Commercial Property Tax Shot Up 159 Percent in One Year

The president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce said many business are struggling with a dramatic rise in assessed property value.

This year Dave Huk saw the assessed value of his business rise 159 percent.
Huk said he simply can’t afford such a drastic, unexpected rise in taxes on in Marion.

"It is a game changer," he said. "You would have to lay someone off (to afford it). Not every small business can absorb that kind of increase."

He’s not the only business owner that has seen the taxable value of their business rise dramatically this year. According to Jill Ackerman, president of the Marion Chamber of Commerce, many Marion businesses have seen their value rise dramatically, due to the first "baseline assessment" in Marion by the Linn County Assessors office in nearl 20 years.

She said on average, the value Marion businesses' rose only 5 percent, but the land where the busineses sit has risen an average of 50 percent.

What's a baseline assessment?

In order to get a good grasp on this story you first need to understand that the assessor’s office in Linn County sets the value of businesses, which is used to determine how much property tax a business has to pay.

Usually, the assessor is required to do what is called a baseline assessment every 10 years. That means the assessor’s office has to completely recalculate the value of local businesses based on a number of factors. Every few years in between the baseline assessment, the assessors office usually does what is called an equalization assessment, which is more of a revision of the baseline assessment that takes into account changes in value due to the local marketplace. 

The last time the baseline assessment was done by the Linn County Assessor’s office was 1983, according to Linn County Assessor Julie Kester. That assessment then was done with numbers that reflected the market of 1979, out of date.

How did that happen?

Kester said the previous assessor didn’t do these baseline assessments because there simply wasn’t money in the budget for them. The current round of assessments has been a work-in-progress since 2008.

What can business owners do?

Huk said not only is his new assessment a huge increase from last year, but he thinks it doesn’t match up with what he estimates his business to be worth.

"I don’t think it reflects fair market value," he said. "I think they grossly overestimated everybody out here."

So, he’s doing what chamber president Ackerman said every business owner with similar concerns should do: appeal.

Business owners have from April 16 to May 7 to appeal their appraisal.
Kester said her office has no interest in assessing people higher than market value, and Huk and Ackerman say the assessor’s office has made themselves available to those with concerns.

Ackerman said there’s not much that can be done with the assessments aside from appealing them on an individual basis, which she encourages everyone to do.

"It is just really important that businesses get to the assessor’s office," said Ackerman. "They have good intentions and they want the assessment to be correct as well."

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