We have all heard the old adage "You Can’t Fight City Hall." It wasn’t an adage for me recently. It was an actual experience. Not only couldn’t I fight city hall, I wasn’t even allowed in the ring. It all started with the new 2009 property assessments. Mequon property owners are now sadly aware that all property has been reassessed in value as of January 1, 2009. Average assessments were increased about 18%, not withstanding the collapse of the real estate market which accompanied the economic downturn.
Being the owner of a town house in the Concord Place Condominium I undertook an evaluation and comparison of all 109 of our town houses. WOW - did I find assessment mistakes of every kind in both Land and Building assessments, which I called to the attention of the assessor at the Open Book session and subsequently in two separate meetings. If his initial work is any indication of the accuracy of his assessments elsewhere on Mequon residential property - property owners are in big trouble.
He made many of the corrections, primarily to the town house buildings themselves, but informed me I would have to go to the Board of Review for what I considered serious over assessments on the Land. Town house condominium owners do not own the land on which their town houses sit, but rather own an equal joint interest in all the condominium land – in our case some 19 acres.
For that reason, I filed the required Objection form in the name of the entire Concord Place Condominium, with myself as the agent. I walked into the Board of Review meeting expecting to present my evidence only to discover I had been sandbagged by the assessor and the Board. Apparently they had decided some time before my appointment that I would not be able to present the Condominium’s case unless I had brought with me the signed authorizations of each of the 109 town house owners. Of course, I hadn’t, although all the owners had been informed by me in writing that I was going to appeal on their behalf.
Nowhere on the Objection form nor in the letter from the City confirming the appointment, does it state that an agent has to bring written proof of his being deputized – and in fact, in the case following mine, an agent representing an owner was NOT asked for any written proof of his standing. With this condition inflicted, I did my best to present my evidence using my town house assessment as the example, but it was plain that it was already a lost cause. In fact, when it came for the assessor to respond, it became evident that all he brought to the meeting were pictures of my town house and an already filled out form prepared to deny changing my town house assessment, which of course I never asked for. Even a slow learner like me, recognized I had been had – that the assessor and the Board of Review were in cahoots ahead of time to avoid hearing the filed Objection. This wasn’t a fair hearing. It was a Kangaroo Court. To add insult to injury, I was asked if I desired the Board to reduce my town house Land assessment - an offer I rejected out of hand, since it was never part of the filed Objection and seemed more like a bribe or sop for my efforts.
Lastly, the Board of Review and the assessor appeared to salve their conscience by agreeing that the assessor would take another look at the deficiencies I uncovered. The assessor stated he was too busy to fix them this year – so I guess property owners will pay the additional property taxes up coming and wait for some relief in 2010. Too bad our City officials decided to eliminate our past in-house assessment function for a hired gun assessor who looks on Mequon as just another job. The City might have saved a few bucks, but the inaccurate assessments mean an unfair distribution of the property taxes for all.
On reflection, I am sadly disappointed in what occurred in a community where I have resided for more than 22 years. I am especially distressed that the City of Mequon’s official notice of assessment states: "This new assessment is an estimate of the full (100%) market value of your property as of January 1, 2009," when a challenge to that assessment is denied a fair hearing. Let’s hope our elected officials take notice – and action.