Despite a report showing a possible cost savings for Davenport by consolidating its assessor's office with Scott County's, such a move is on hold for the time being.
The City Assessor's budget for fiscal year 2013 is $1.195 million, while the county assessor's budget is $1.135 million. The report by staff from the city, county and Davenport Public Schools states the goals of consolidation as keeping the office's property tax levy rate at the county's level, which is lower than the city's, and also reduce costs by $400,000.
That could mean a savings of $5 annually for a median Davenport homeowner and $22 annually for a small business with yearly revenue of $250,000, according to the report.
Davenport Assessor Rebecca Eiting, whose retirement next year prompted the discussion, recommended against it, saying it is a "if it's not broke, don't fix it," situation.
"You can argue either side of the coin," Eiting said, noting consolidation discussions go back decades. "The timing wouldn’t be good right now."
If consolidation is done, it should wait until after the city's commercial and industrial assessments are on the same computer system as the county in 2016, Eiting recommends. Both offices recently completed consolidating residential properties to the same computer system.
Mayor Bill Gluba, who recommended studying consolidation with the Scott County Assessor earlier this year, said a number of questions need to be answered before considering it. He says the issue will be revisited next year.
His chief concern is the effect consolidation might have on assessments. He is worried that homes in Davenport would face the same assessment as similar ones in Bettendorf.
"I was a Realtor for 40 years. I know the same house by the same builder in Davenport is going to be $10,000 to $20,000 more if it is in Bettendorf," he said. "There are too many unanswered questions to make me feel comfortable.
"We don’t want to turn over assessments to an outside company. We do it in-house, by local people who have a sense of feel for our neighborhoods," Gluba said.
The report states that the staffing in a consolidated office would be about the same as the two offices separately. Together, the assessors have 19.5 employees, but a consolidated office could have 19 positions.
Eiting said her office does assessments, while Scott County contracts out that service. The report might not take that into account.
"That is where you would see some real discrepancies in cost savings," she said.
A letter to the Iowa Department of Revenue seeking answers, especially on how assessments would be done between cities wasn't helpful, Gluba said. He also points out that Linn County with Cedar Rapids and Johnson County with Iowa City have similar systems.
Scott County's two assessors keep track of 77,826 parcels with a combined budget of $2.33 million, while Linn and Cedar Rapids combine to oversee 104,360 parcels with a total budget of $5.32 million. Johnson County and Iowa City have a total budget of $1.96 million while assessing 60,779 parcels.