Government

Iowa State Senators want second look at assessor retention proposal

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A proposal to require city and county assessors to stand for retention every four years did not advance out of a Senate Local Government subcommittee Monday, but lawmakers didn’t kill the bill.

Senate File 49, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=SF49&ga=88 sponsored by Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, was opposed by local government lobbyists, who said it would needlessly politicize what now is an appointed position. Subcommittee members indicated they wanted to give the bill more consideration before making a decision.

“I’m not sure at this time what I think of this bill, frankly, but I’m not sure at this time I want to kill it,” said Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola.

Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, wasn’t sure that requiring assessors to stand for retention like judges would be a bad thing.

“Everybody seems to be afraid of politics,” he said. “I think what you’re talking about is accountability. However, I see there are a lot of different parts to this whole thing, and I’m really struggling with this thing.”

County assessors are appointed by a board made up of representatives of city councils, school boards and the Board of Supervisors. There are three ways for a person to qualify to take the assessors’ exam. They must have taken either the Iowa Assessment and Taxation Review within the past five years, the Iowa Department of Revenue Iowa Laws Course or the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers-Basic Appraisal Principles and Procedures course.

That means there is a small pool of Iowans qualified to be assessors and deputy assessors, Lucas Beenken of the Iowa State Association of Counties told the subcommittee. If an assessor were not retained, the deputy assessor would be the likely replacement, and the assessor would become the deputy because of the limited number of qualified people.

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There are adequate checks and balances without politicizing the position by requiring assessors to stand for retention, Beenken said.

He also pointed out that assessors are required to determine the market value of property other than agricultural land.

“If what is for most people their greatest asset is increasing in value, that’s not a bad thing,” he said. And while it may only be natural for them to be concerned if their property taxes go up, “the issue is with county supervisors, city councils and school boards because they are the ones who set the (tax) rate.”

No date was set for another subcommittee meeting on the bill.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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