Government

Cedar Rapids assessor Beth Weeks retiring this month

Her office plays a big role in the city's tax bills

Beth Weeks, the Cedar Rapids assessor since 2015, will retire at the end of the month. Her office assesses the market value of property in the city, which when combined with tax rates set by local governments and school boards, determines the tax bill of a city homeowner. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beth Weeks, the Cedar Rapids assessor since 2015, will retire at the end of the month. Her office assesses the market value of property in the city, which when combined with tax rates set by local governments and school boards, determines the tax bill of a city homeowner. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — After more than three decades as a community assessor, Beth Weeks, who has been the Cedar Rapids city assessor since 2015, has announced plans to retire.

“It’s time for me to move out of the way of the people that are enthusiastic and excited about the job and new technology,” Weeks, 66, said last week. Her final day will be at the end of March.

Changes in technology have been some of the biggest adjustments she’s had to make over the years, she recalled.

“When I stated, we did everything by hand. There weren’t computers ... everything was on property record cards,” she said. “Technology has been a wonderful tool for us.”

Weeks started in 1986 as the Poweshiek County Assessor. She also spent time as a county assessor in Iowa and Tama counties.

Looking forward toward retirement, Weeks said she hopes to become a master gardener, take on volunteer opportunities and stay involved in the community.

Weeks’s retirement kicks off the process of finding the next city assessor — a position that operates independently from city government.

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To be eligible, a candidate must pass an Iowa Department of Revenue exam. He or she also need two years of property appraisal experience.

After satisfying those requirements, an applicant’s name is included in a state register. When there is an opening, a three-member examining board contacts those on the list to give them an opportunity to apply.

That board conducts interviews and ultimately makes a recommendation to, in this case, the Cedar Rapids City Conference Board, which is made up of a representative from the city, the county and area school boards. The conference board makes the final decision.

Weeks said it’s most likely whoever is chosen as assessor would complete the remainder of her term, which concludes later this year, and then take on the next six-year term.

Weeks’s current salary is about $130,000, but she said it’s uncertain what salary the next assessor would receive.

The department assesses all property within city limits to determine its value, and the position operates independently of the City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and the school boards within the district to avoid a conflict of interest.

The city assessor is responsible for determining the estimated market value of land, new construction, existing buildings and improvements for tax purposes. The process involves a few approaches; identifying comparable properties that have recently sold; an estimate of the cost of replacing the property; and determining value according to income produced by a property.

That valuation is used with tax levies set by the local governments and school boards to determine a resident’s property taxes.

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Even if a city or county tax levy remains unchanged from one year to the next, a resident still could pay a higher property tax bill in the valuation increased.

“When I started doing the job as assessor in Tama County, if somebody appealed their value, I took it personally and I don’t anymore,” Weeks said.

It’s all just part of the process, she added.

“They’re just questioning their value and how I arrived at it. They’re not challenging me personally. They just have questions and people should ask questions. I encourage people to appeal to the board of review.”

The Iowa Department of Revenue reported 350 protested residential assessments for Cedar Rapids in 2017. Of those, 133 were upheld and the remainder were denied. For commercial property assessments that year, 393 were protested. Of those, 152 were upheld and 241 were denied.

Two years earlier in 2015, more than 680 residential assessments were protested, with more than 580 upheld. Meanwhile, about 90 commercial assessments were protested, with about half upheld.

• Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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