Letter to the Editor

How to make lemonade from lemons

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dickinson County is blessed with the best natural resources in the State of Iowa. Our 10 natural lakes are a magnet that draws people from a 200 mile radius and beyond. We are fortunate so many people want to visit the Iowa Great Lakes with the result many want to buy property here. Recently lakeshore property has been selling at higher prices.

Unfortunately, when property values increase, the assessed values go up. This is an odd numbered year, so the County Assessor is required to issue new property assessments. A month ago the new property tax statements were mailed. The shock for lakeshore owners on West Okoboji and the southern half of East Okoboji was that their land values went up 20 percent. Other property owners received varying amounts of higher assessments. A higher assessment does not guarantee higher property taxes, but the value assessment is one of three components that determines your property tax.

Some lakeshore property owners have the resources to pay their property taxes with little difficulty. But for many lakeshore owners who inherited the property and live on pension and social security income the sharp rise in property taxes could force them to sell a property that has been in their family for generations. The higher assessed value would increase one's net worth, but the value isn't worth anything until the property is sold.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this vexing problem. The higher assessed value of lakeshore property means our county/city/school districts have more assessed value to levy against. For many years we have thought we were doing a good job of restraining tax increases by not increasing the levy rate. The unseen force at work is that assessed values were resulting in ever-increasing property taxes.

With the amount of property tax values increasing, our county/cities/school districts could receive a windfall increase in property tax revenue. A small amount increase to offset inflation is warranted. But we do not need for county/city/school districts to go on spending spree with this new found revenue. A lowering of the levy rate would also benefit non-lakeshore property owners by lowering their property taxes.

Dickinson County Taxpayers Association