After days of glitches, Linn County tax report is out

County's base grows 1.2 percent after accounting for latest phase of tax relief

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By Alex Boisjolie, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — The value of Linn County’s tax base grew 1.2 percent from last year, according to a report issued Thursday — two weeks late as computer software struggled to spit out the data that local governments depend on to set tax rates.

The value of all land in the county that will be used to calculate property taxes was almost $10.5 billion for 2015, the report said. That’s up from about $9.9 billion in the previous period.

The increase comes after accounting for the latest phase of Iowa’s landmark tax relief measures. This time, multifamily properties are put in a different classification and a smaller portion of their value is taxable.

“An example of this would be Zoey’s Pizzeria in Marion,” according to Linn County Deputy Auditor Stacey Law. “In the basement is the restaurant and up above is housing, Before, that would have been taxed commercially, but now it is considered residential and commercial. The new classifications could have helped lower this year’s taxable values.”

When looked at in its entirety — and not just for its taxable value — Linn County parcels were worth $17.7 billion, a 2.2 percent increase over the previous $17.3 billion, the report found.

One of the largest tax base increases was in rapidly expanding Marion.

But despite that good news for the Marion budget, the tardiness of the report means the city cannot complete a full proposal in time for upcoming meetings.

“It’s great they could iron out the problems in the system,” said Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn. “Property tax rate drives a huge percentage of our budget, and we need that information to accurately assess that.”

By state law, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller was to certify the valuation report by the turn of the new year so it could be distributed to local governments.

That data kicks of months of setting budgets for cities, school districts and other governing agencies and calculating how much property taxes home and business owners will have to pay.

But Miller said the county’s software, Aumentum, had glitches and initially appeared unable to generate a report for him to sign off on.

The county system used to generate previous reports was shut down more than a year ago. Miller warned earlier this week that the new software — bought and maintained by the Board of Supervisors but used by him and others — was having problems.

“I apologize for the inconvenience this delay has caused the cities, schools, and other taxing entities within Linn County,” Miller said in a statement. “If I don’t get the tax list certified to the Treasurer by August 1st and/or the Treasurer does not get the tax bills to the taxpayers by September 1st due to Aumentum malfunctioning, then the voters can decide my fate on November 8th.”

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