Scott County's challenge of a state order that would significantly raise multi-residential property values in the county now is headed "to a higher court," the county's assessor said.
In October, the Iowa Department of Revenue issued an equalization order increasing the value of all multi-residential properties across Scott County — outside of Davenport —by 21 percent.
County Assessor Tom McManus said the Iowa Department of Revenue has responded to his formal protest with a recommendation that the matter go before an administrative judge.
The state department also recommends the judge "deny the county's protest in its entirety and sustain the Department's equalization order in its entirety," according to the department's response to Scott County's appeal.
"They want to fight us," McManus said. "We're going to present a case why we think it (the increase) isn't warranted."
Every two years, in odd years, the Department of Revenue equalizes assessments in order to bring properties to fair market value. It equalizes assessments across an entire property class and jurisdiction and not on a statewide basis.
For Scott County, multi-residential properties were the only classification of properties to receive an equalization order.
McManus said the 21% increase would impact all apartment buildings, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and manufactured home parks across Scott County but outside of Davenport, which handles its own assessments. Davenport did not receive an equalization order from the state, he added.
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The equalization order would boost multi-residential assessments by a total of $152 million across the county.
"I think it's justified to fight this and stand up to what I feel is a hefty, and unwarranted increase to multi-residential assessments," McManus said, adding he thinks "it is the right thing to do for Scott county multi-residential owners."
As of Thursday, he did not know when the issue would go before a judge.
"We're asking the whole equalization order be removed or lowered to a much lower increase," he said.
McManus said in talking to other county assessors it may have been the 1990s that an assessor last protested a final order to a higher court. "We're in unchartered territory."
The state-ordered equalization comes on the heels of the Scott County assessor issuing its own increase last spring of multi-residential property values county-wide.
If upheld, the equalization order would go in effect retroactively and increase property values for assessments as of Jan. 1, 2019. That means it would be "September 2020 when the multi-residential owners will see a difference in their property values," he added.
In addition to Scott County's protest to the state, the county's Board of Review re-convened last month in order to give individual owners of multi-residential properties another chance to protest the increase from the equalization order only.
Of the 36 property owners who protested the increase, 22 — or 61 percent — had their protest upheld or their property values lowered by the Board of Review. McManus said the board removed a total of $7.3 million of assessed value.
He said that depending on the outcome of the county's appeal, those assessments could change again which could trigger the board reconvening again.