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Assessor disputes Royal's claims, calls property values "fair"

Carlos Royal, a Dickinson property owner, has started a GoFundMe with the intention of suing the city for its property assessment process, calling it "corrupt" and "unfair."...

Carlos Royal, a Dickinson property owner, has started a GoFundMe with the intention of suing the city for its property assessment process, calling it "corrupt" and "unfair."

Disputing the claims made by Royal, City Assessor Joe Hirschfeld said the assessment process remains both fair and consistent.

"The assessment process is as fair as possible," Hirschfeld said. "I don't know anybody who would say it's a perfect system nationwide. North Dakota also has some different policies and procedures that the Legislature has put in place for how we're to do our job."

"The one thing we strive for the most is to be consistent," he said.

Royal claims properties in Dickinson are being over-assessed, but according to Hirschfeld, apartment buildings, such as Royal's properties, have seen a 25 percent decrease over the last two years.

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"They're the only class of property to have seen that large of a decrease. Hotels have also had a little bit of a decrease, not to that same extent," he said. "It's not accurate to say they didn't decrease, because they have and they've decreased significantly."

Properties are valued relative to the entire city, Hirschfeld said, and not singularly.

"He's looking at his values and not consistently trying to value all of the city of Dickinson's properties," Hirschfeld said, "and there are the laws the state has prescribed that I need to follow."

He added, "He's not being valued at a rate different from anyone else."

The decrease was appropriate, Hirschfeld said.

"We would not have been able to give a larger decrease to apartments without having to increase another property class in order to make that happen," he said. "I don't believe an increase was warranted to any other property class, so I didn't believe it to be fair and equitable to do that."

To help determine these values, the assessor's office uses software called CamaVision, from Vanguard Appraisals of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"It allows us to put in all the property characteristics of each property," Hirschfeld said. "If it's a house, we have the square footage of the house, garage count, quality of the materials, age of the property. All of those things are taken into consideration. That's where we get our consistency. Then we can compare each property to like-properties, and compare that to the sales that occured."

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Hirschfeld regards the software as a reliable tool.

"It's the only way we can assess 10,000 parcels every year," he said.

Royal claimed that of 100 abatements brought to the city commissioners in 2017, all were denied. In fact, 16 properties were granted abatements.

"Certainly once that recommendation went to the county, the county accepted the city's recommendations, so the decrease was put on that property," Hirschfeld said. "However, there was a larger decrease being asked for by this applicant and the county elected not to give him any more."

The valuations do not affect taxes, Hirschfeld said. The values set by the assessor's office are used by the city for determining mill levels.

"To me, it doesn't matter what the value is as long as it's accurate and it's fair and consistent across the board, because the mills will be generated at whatever level to attain a budget," he said.

Hirschfeld is optimistic about property values going into the new year, with market interest in commercial properties remaining mixed and residential interest remaining stable.

"When you think about retail, office buildings, we've got six- or 7,000 more people than we had at the census, so there's still demand for those properties. They are what is selling and they are still selling at assessed values," he said. "The market is still good for those properties."

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Since launching his GoFundMe page on Dec. 23, Royal has raised $300 of his $50,000 goal intended for upfront attorney costs.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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