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Eastman grapples with property assessment disparities

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Sam Tesar (left), Bill Schultz (middle) and Roy Kramer (right) met with the Town’s land assessment contractor before their meeting on Feb. 12. (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press).

By Steve Van Kooten

 

In January the Town of Eastman Board stated they had been notified of several possible land assessment errors on properties within Eastman. Deanne Lutz, Crawford County Treasurer, appeared at the January meeting to review 23 possible errors. At February’s meeting, the board convened to publicly address the errors and the contract with Holloway Appraisal, LLC.

In attendance were William Schultz, Town Chair, and Supervisors Samuel Tesar, Jr. and Roy Kramer. Jann Sturmer, Town Clerk, was also present.

Tesar stated Holloway Appraisal, LLC, worked with the township for several years without incident before the business was sold. In the last three to four years, he stated there have been multiple issues.

Tesar stated Holloway had contracts with 31 municipalities, which Tesar viewed as too much to handle in a job that was “all about details.”

Of the 23 errors outlined at the January meeting and reviewed in brief at the Crawford County Finance Committee meeting, five of the properties were over charged, which will likely result in a charge back to the counties, schools and vocational institutions for their portion of taxes incorrectly levied on those properties. The other 18 were omitted taxes, which meant they received a reduced tax bill and would result in a higher bill next year.

The board stated the assessor had personally resolved one of the properties. That resident’s property had been incorrectly assessed in three of the last four years, according to Lutz.

Several properties that had omitted taxes had escrow accounts with banks to help with their payments. Those accounts were required to be resolved by Feb. 15, and Tesar said Eastman intended to take payments from those property holders, store the money in a savings account and distribute the money next year so escrow’s could be resolved before the deadline. For other properties, the board encouraged anyone with a dispute to come to the Eastman’s Open Book or Board or Review.

The board also announced their intention to pursue a new assessor because the contract with Holloway was up for renewal.

“So we did meet with the assessor, and he did present us with a renewal contract. We haven’t signed it yet,” Schultz stated. “We’re considering going out and getting quotes for other assessors based on how many mistakes were made the last couple of years.”

Part of that decision was the need to do a revaluation. Tesar said the Town of Eastman was between 60-66 percent of the determined value given by the state, which was well outside the 10 percent margin deemed acceptable.

“The state usually gives you a couple years to get back into compliance,” Tesar added. “It’s probably a good time to have a three year contract with a new assessor.”

In January, Holloway Appraisal stated they were working with the Town of Eastman to resolve the issue and declined further comment in February.

The board approved a motion to request bids from assessors for a three year contact with a revaluation as part of the first or second year.

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