There are many variables when it comes to establishing property assessments. Some of these variables will be highlighted when the Local Board of Appeal meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7.
Dan Distel has worked as the assessor for Wayzata for 20 years. He also works for Deephaven and Woodland. A lot of people know him in Wayzata due to his philosophy, his fairness, and his willingness to talk about property values with the property owners.
“First of all, I work for the people of Wayzata,” he says. “When people ask me how I can do such an unpopular job, I say it is my mission to help people understand how the valuation process works. The state requires that all properties have estimated property values established, and that they are equalized. I try to be as fair as possible and provide as much information as I can.”
Distel wants to get the word out that when people question his assessment, he wants to hear from them and talk to them about it. In explaining the process, he reminds people that he is audited by both the state and county, who compare his valuations to all assessors in the state and Hennepin County. Most importantly, he does not set the tax. He sets a value on residential and commercial properties. The local entities, the county and the state set the taxes.
Many people believe that assessors set taxes in Minnesota. That is a misconception. Property taxes in Minnesota are calculated from the property’s assessed market value, its classification rate, and the local tax rate. The tax rate is determined by dividing the total dollars to be raised with property taxes (tax levy) as set by city councils, school boards and county boards.
The accompanying graph shows that only 18% of each property tax dollar goes to the City. The City’s share of taxes in the graph is the combined total of slice one and two. One slice is a tax capacity levy and the other is a total market value levy. A $500,000 home pays about $5,000 in property tax. Eight hundred and fifty dollars ($850) of that $5,000 goes to the City, which amounts to just over $16 a week.
City taxes pay for 24-hour police and fire protection; prompt snowplowing of city streets; city parks, including the skating rink with warming house and attendants; street repair and maintenance; street lights; park maintenance; public flower gardens; public beach with lifeguards; public tree maintenance; building, zoning and property code enforcement; municipal, state and national elections.
Property owners receive the proposed new values for their property in the mail in early spring every year. The valuation is used by the city, school, county and state to determine taxes for the next year.
Distel recommends reading the valuation notice very carefully. It will include the process to contest a property’s value and the dates for the Local Board of Appeal and the County’s Board of Equalization.
Anyone unhappy with their assessment should first contact Distel. Only if you are still at odds with the assessment, tell Distel you will be attending the Local Board of Appeal. Before going to the Local Board of Appeal, let Distel know you will be attending, so he can have the paperwork ready. The Board of Appeal comprises the City Council. Do not expect to talk about taxes at the Board. The board only determines if your property has been fairly assessed.
Allowing an assessor into your home is necessary for him to make a fair valuation. If a homeowner wants to contest his assessment before the Board of Appeal, the board will want the assessor to see the home and have full access to the property.
The higher values of many of the homes and commercial properties make Wayzata unusual. However,Wayzata is also fortunate in having an assessor who works with property owners to reach a fair and equitable value. Distel says it best, “My goal is to do a good job, to be fair and equal to all properties, to communicate well, and let people
know and understand the process.”
Images and article courtesy of the City of Wayzata.