Assessment and equalization
Property taxes are the town’s major source of revenue. The process for calculating taxes, determining values of properties is summarized below. For more information see: Wisconsin Department of Revenue Property Assessment Process Guide for Municipal Officials, Wisconsin Department of Revenue Guide for Property Owners, and Wisconsin Towns Association Board of Review.
Property taxes on real properties are in proportion to the relative values of each property. To
accomplish this, the levy (that is the total tax to be collected which is set at a town meeting) is divided by the sum of all of the assessed values of all properties in the town (the total
valuation of the town). The levy divided by the total valuation is the mil rate. The mil rate times the valuation of each
property determines the tax on that property. In this way, the cost of next year’s town government (the levy) is divided
among the property owners in the town in relation to the relative values of their properties.
TaxA = Value A*levy/∑ValueA+ValueB+ . . . ValueN
Where TaxA represents the tax on property A which has Value A and ∑ValueA+ValueB+ . . . ValueN represents the sum of the values of all properties in the town.
Statutes require that property be taxed in proportion to its value. Thus, we must know the relative values of all properties in the town. This process is complicated by the fact that the only time we really know what a property is worth is the day it is sold from a willing seller to a willing buyer. To provide the town with a reasonable assessment, a professional assessing firm is hired by the town to provide periodic complete revaluations, more frequent paper revaluations, maintain records on past assessments and change the records as new construction or demolition changes the property in the town. The assessor tries to place a value on each piece of property based on one of several possible methods (Wisconsin Town's Association training materials, DOR instructions for Boards of Review) The most important of these methods, particularly for residential property is comparisons to recent sales of nearby properties.
Property owners have an opportunity once each year to ask that errors in their property assessments be corrected.
The assessor’s job is to proportionately value each and every parcel of real property, including improvements, in the town. Each property owner in the town should make sure that their assessed valuation is appropriate. If it is too high, they are paying more than their share of taxes. If it is too low, all of the other residents of the town are paying more than their share. And if a parcel sells at a time that its assessment is too low, the discrepancy between the sale price and the actual price will probably be reflected in the town's equalized valuation, and every property owner in the town will pay too much school tax, perhaps for years. Let's get it right. (See Guide to the Equalization Process for more detail of how the process of equalizing valuation works)
What can you do?
Review the assessment of your property. Does it seem right? Compare it to the assessment of other nearby properties. Does any property you are familiar with seem disproportionately low or high as compared to your property?
Talk to the assessor (on the web: http://www.accurateassessor.com/ or (800)-770-3927). Negotiate with the assessor. You can talk to the assessor at any time, but during open book he is here, in the Town Hall ready to talk to any Berry property owner. His job is to get assessments correct, and explain them to property owners. Often just coming to open book to share information is sufficient to cause adjustments to assessments. The assessor can make changes to the assessment rolls up to the time of the beginning of the Board of Review. If the assessor remains convinced that your assessment is correct, ask him to explain the basis on which the assessment was made. This information will be valuable to you while preparing an appeal.
If you are unable to convince the assessor that your assessment is wrong, the next step is the Board of Review. Once each
year, usually in early June, The town board sits as a quasi judicial body known as the Board of Review. This is where a
formal appeal concerning erroneous assessments can be made. Notice of intent to file an appeal must be filed with the Town
Clerk at least 48 hours before the Board of Review meets for the first time. Property owners must then provide sworn
testimony supporting their case. State how much your property is really worth and provide evidence to support your claim.
Very useful information regarding the ways that valuation can be determined and how to prepare effective appeals can be found
in materials available from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (Guide to the Property Assessment Process for Wisconsin Municipal Officials, DOR Guide for Property Owners) and from the Wisconsin Towns Association. Note that much of this
material is directed toward those conducting the Board of Review, but it provides useful information on what the Board will
consider and how they may view an appeal.
Note that for residential property, recent sales of comparable properties is always the most important means of assigning value.
The assessor will be provided an opportunity to defend his assessment of the property. Both parties (property owner and Assessor) will be allowed to rebut the others’ testimony. The Board of Review will decide what the correct assessment is based solely on the evidence presented to the Board.