“The thing that I think that all of us in leadership are clear about is that a mistake was made. I’m not blaming any of our assessors, but this was a mistake that was blatantly obvious. It had to be fixed, and it had to be fixed fast. So that’s what we’re doing,” Jewell said.
But there’s a catch. The city staff reviewing appeals doesn’t have much leeway to adjust the millions of dollars in over assessments that bear little relationship to actual market prices.
The city’s Board of Appeal and Equalization has authority to make adjustments to a limited extent — up to 1 percent of the city’s total property value.
The scope of the overall adjustments to be made is still coming into focus, yet Sipila said: “It’s probably in the vicinity of $50 million, but that is less than 1 percent of the total value of the city, which is essentially $6.5 billion.”
Property owners also have the right to follow up with the county assessors who now admit they blew it.
“So after that occurred, like we always do, we did research. We double-checked our numbers and we determined that we were off the mark,” she [Mary Garness, St. Louis County public records and property valuation director] said.
“So we immediately started reviewing and determining where changes needed to be made, and that’s what we’ve been working hard to do up until this point,” Garness said.
When the process wraps up, someone needs to assess the assessors–and whoever else might have been involved. It seems unlikely county assessors decided to go rogue and escalate tax valuations so drastically on their own. While they’re at it, how about an apology to commercial property owners and others who’ve been subjected to this nightmare? And a pledge not to let it happen again.
“We’re in the process of reviewing our organizational structure, staffing levels and quality control measures. So we’re doing a number of things,” Garness said.