Mayor Adam Schweers
Mayor Adam Schweers
March 10, 2014



CARROLL

Commercial property owners could see a 16 percent increase in their city tax bills this coming fiscal year. Meanwhile, homeowners in Carroll would face 6 to 7 percent increases in their city property tax under a draft plan city elected officials appear poised to approve tonight.

The reason for the increase stems from state equalization orders increasing the assessed value of all commercial property in Carroll County by 32 percent and the value of residential property by 10 percent. The orders are based on a review of property sales and a state analysis showing the selling prices well out in front of the values on which property is actually taxed.

City staff is proposing a cut in the city's tax rate from $12.90 per $1,000 valuation to $11.98 per $1,000 valuation - a 7.4 percent decrease.

Councilman Tom Tait - the only member to vote against sending the proposed budget to the public hearing for 5:15 p.m. today - thinks elected officials should have done more to reduce the property-tax burden caused by the state.

"That feels high to me on citizens who are just trying to get by after a recession," Tait said.

Tait said he wanted to "level out" the effects of the equalization orders, which would mean a massive reduction in the residential tax asking from the city to compensate for the state's 32 percent increase in commercial property taxable valuation in the county.

"I think about people who are retired on a fixed income," Tait said.

The result of the equalization orders and the proposed levy would mean a home assessed at $120,000 for the current tax year's purposes has jumped in value to $132,000. Owners of such properties would pay $802 in city taxes, up from $755, a $47 increase, under the budget plan.

A commercial property that had been assessed at $1 million for the current tax year is now assessed at $1.32 million and gets a 16 percent hit with taxes jumping $2,123 from $12,905 to $15,028. (These figures represent only the city askings. The county, school district and Des Moines Area Community College also tax property.) The actual increase in property-tax revenue for the city from this year to the next fiscal cycle would be roughly $350,000.

Carroll City Manager Gerald Clausen noted that the city adjustment cuts the equalization order's effect in half for the city.

Mayor Adam Schweers and two members of the city council said that is a responsible approach.

"I think the city is doing all it can to alleviate this huge bump," said Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann.

Added Councilman Jerry Fleshner, "It's certainly not a Cadillac. It's a very reasonable budget."

Schweers said city leaders cannot counteract state equalization orders with lower local tax rates without creating a yo-yo taxing scenario, in which tax rates drop dramatically one year only to be set up for major increases in the future.

"How far down do we want to go because I can very much assure we have to bring it right back up," Schweers said.

Schweers pointed to the proposed $1,018 in city taxes for next fiscal year on a home assessed at $150,000.

That's $3 a day for living in Carroll, the mayor said, adding that such a figure is "not a bad price tag."

After listening to the discussion at a recent council meeting Tait suggested he was reconciled to the proposed budget - which gained approval for a public hearing from the rest of the council.

"OK, I'm done," Tait said. "That's fine. I'll support what you're doing."

That considered, he voted against setting the public hearing.