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Residential property assessments in Dickinson rise an average of 12 percent

DICKINSON - The city of Dickinson plans to send letters to the vast majority of homeowners on Friday notifying them of increases in their assessed property values for 2008, said City Assessor Jan Zent.

"We did an across-the-board increase on residential because we were low on all of them," Zent said.

Once a year, the city gathers and analyzes information on properties, such as square footage and amenities, and uses software to apply statistical tests and standardized procedures to groups of similar properties, arriving at an estimated value for each.

"We're dealing with mass properties, we do not do a single property," Zent said.

After doing a mass-appraisal of residential properties, the city compared its assessments to Dickinson home sales prices from 2007. The city found that on average its residential assessments were only 88 percent of market value. The state requires the city's mass appraisal be at 100 percent of market value. Consequently, residential property values were raised an average of 12 percent, Zent said.

So with an increase in assessed property values, does that mean property taxes will jump too?

"No, not necessarily because we do not know what our mill levy (property tax rate) is going to do," Zent said. "The other thing I'm going to add to that is...the assessor doesn't determine the amount of taxes paid, but...the assessor has a responsibility in finding the market value so that everybody pays their fair share."

If a property value goes up by more than 10 percent, North Dakota law requires that the owner be notified, Zent said.

Letters will go out to the owners of about 5,000 of the roughly 5,400 homes in Dickinson. Owners of vacant lots and commercial properties that have had new construction done in the past year could also receive notifications, Zent said.

The city assessor's office does a market-based appraisal of all properties every year, Zent said. The last time the city did a total residential reappraisal was in 1995, Zent said.

"Ideally, we would like to do it on cyclical basis every seven years," Zent said, adding that a lack of staff and a spike in home construction have prevented the office from doing that.

Diana Zietz, co-owner of Continental Real Estate Inc. and president of the Badlands Board of Realtors, said the area's thriving economy has been steadily driving up house prices.

"It's the oil, and people are coming in from outside because of the oil industry," Zietz said.

Jackie Miller, a realtor with Everett Real Estate Inc. and an adjunct lecturer at Dickinson State University, said local employers have been growing and attracting workers, creating a demand for housing.

"Our need has outstripped our inventory," Miller said.

Drawing data from a multiple-listing service, a database of real estate prices, Zietz said the average sales price for a Dickinson home in 2006 was $103,709 and $116,783 in 2007.

The city has scheduled a Board of Equalization meeting for Monday, May 5, at 4 p.m. in the City Hall to address property tax concerns. If owners have questions about their property values, they should contact the city assessor's office, (701) 456-7734, before the meeting.