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Know the time relationship between the assessment and the budget
Though not as interesting as those “the government has aliens in captivity” conspiracy theories, one of the popular theories related to the assessment of a city’s tax base is that the mayor sends the assessor out to increase values whenever the city needs more money.
One of the realities that the conspiracy buffs want to overlook is the fact that each year the assessor determines the taxable value of the city about six months BEFORE the budget is finalized.
Below is the assessment and budget timeline for Tax and Budget Year 2009 as an example:
Mid-May 2007: Assessor begins inspecting a fraction, not all, of the 40,000+ taxable parcels in the city for the January 2, 2008 assessment for taxes to be paid in 2009
Dec. 07 – Feb. 08: Assessor calculates estimated market values of all inspected parcels.
Mid-March 2008: Assessor posts values of the inspected parcels plus posts city-wide value changes if out of Department of Revenue compliance with the assessment to sale price ratio standard for
April 1, 2008: Send Department of Revenue a report of the city’s taxable and exempt values for the January 2, 2008 assessment, broken down into many, many study classes.
May – June 2008: Post changes to appealed values approved by the Local and County Boards of Appeal & Equalization. Report changes to the Department of Revenue.
July 1, 2008: Estimated market values for taxes to be paid in 2009 are final except for corrections of indisputable clerical errors.
August 2008: Writing of the 2009 city budget begins in earnest.
December 2008: 2009 city budget is finalized.
In addition, the Department of Revenue assessment to sale price ratio standards do not allow over-assessment on a city-wide basis (defined as median assessment to sale price ratio is greater than 105% in any study class). If the assessor does not correct the assessment to lower the ratio to acceptable standards by mid-March 2008, the State Board of Equalization will order a change during its annual meeting in early June. The D.O.R. audits the assessment level annually. No city administration can control the assessment, as it is public information and subject to annual D.O.R. auditing and change orders.