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What authority does the City have to conduct a revaluation?

Wisconsin Law requires market value assessment of all property. The City of Kenosha Assessor's Office revalues all property every two years to keep pace with changes in the market. During a revaluation, all assessments are examined and adjustments are made where necessary to guarantee that all property is assessed at market value. This is done to assure that taxes are distributed equitably and uniformly.

What is the Assessor's role?

The Assessor is a State certified individual whose duties are to discover, list, and place a value on all taxable real and personal property in the city, in a uniform manner. The Assessor is not involved in the collection of property taxes.

What is the difference between real and personal property?

For property tax purposes, "real property" refers to land and buildings and the rights associated with ownership, while "personal property" is the furniture and equipment owned or used by businesses.

How does the Assessor value property?

Wisconsin Law requires property assessments based on fair market value. Estimating the market value of your property is a matter of determining the price a typical buyer would pay for it in its present condition. Some factors the Assessor considers are: what similar properties are selling for, what it would cost to replace your property, the rent it may earn, and any other factors that affect value.

What is market value?

Market value is defined as the amount a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property, the seller and buyer must be unrelated, the seller must be willing, but not under pressure to sell, and the buyer must be willing, but not under any obligation to buy. The property must be on the market for a reasonable length of time, the payment must be in cash or its equivalent, and the financing must be typical for that type of property. If all of these conditions were present, this would be a market value, arm's-length sale.

I've heard you develop values by computer. Is this correct?

Just as in many other fields, computers are useful in the assessment process. Assessors are trained to look for relationships between property characteristics and market value. By coding these characteristics and studying sale prices, Assessors can estimate value by developing formulas and models. Computers are much faster and are capable of advanced analysis in this area. Despite these capabilities, common sense and Assessor judgment are always required to verify assessments. Assessors most familiar with the neighborhoods and properties review all assessments.

Can the assessment on my property be changed even if the Assessor has not been inside my property?

To make a proper assessment on a building, it is desirable for the Assessor to see the inside and the outside of the property. The law requires that property be valued from actual view or the best information available. The Assessor keeps records on the physical characteristics of each property in the municipality. Even though the Assessor may have been unable to go through your property, the assessment will still be reviewed, based on the existing records and the sales of similar properties.

Will I be penalized if I don't let the Assessor in when an inspection is requested?

When an interior inspection is not allowed, the Assessor will attempt to update the records by looking at the property from the outside and using any other available information. To ensure an accurate assessment, it is to your advantage to allow the Assessor inside your property when an inspection is requested. By denying an inspection, you may lose the right to appeal your assessment to the Board of Review.

What will happen to my assessment if I improve my property?

Generally speaking, improvements that increase the market value of a property will increase the assessed value. The following are typical items that will increase the assessed value of your property:

  • Added rooms or garages
  • Replacing asbestos or wood siding with aluminum or vinyl siding
  • Substantial modernization of kitchens or baths
  • Central air conditioning
  • Fireplaces
  • Extensive remodeling

Will my assessment go up if I repair my property?

Good maintenance will help retain the market value of your property. Generally, your assessment will not be increased for individual minor repairs such as those that follow; however, a combination of several of these items could result in an increased assessment:

  • Repairing concrete walks and driveways
  • Replacing gutters and downspouts
  • Replacing hot water heater
  • Repairing or replacing roof
  • Repairing porches and steps
  • Repairing original siding
  • Patching or repairing interior walls and ceilings
  • Exterior painting
  • Replacing electrical fixtures
  • Replacing furnace
  • Exterior awnings and shutters
  • Weather stripping, screens, storm windows, doors
  • Exterior landscaping including lawns, shrubbery, trees, flowers

How can my assessment change when I haven't done anything to my property?

General economic conditions such as interest rates, inflation rates, supply and demand, and changes in tax laws, will influence the value of real estate. As property values change in the market place, those changes must be reflected on the assessment roll.

Do all assessments change at the same rate?

There are differences between individual properties and between neighborhoods. In one area the sales may indicate a substantial increase in value in a given year. In another neighborhood there may be no change in value, or even a decrease in property values. Different types of properties within the same neighborhood may also show different value changes. For example, one-story houses may be more in demand than two-story houses, or vice-versa. Older homes in the same area may be rising in value more slowly than newer homes. There are numerous factors to be considered in each property, which will cause the values to differ. Some of the factors, which can affect value are: location, condition, size, quality, number of baths, basement finish, garages, and many others.

Will I be notified if there is a change in my assessment?

Wisconsin law requires that whenever an assessment is changed the owner must be notified.

How do I know if my assessment is correct?

You should first attempt to decide for yourself what your property is worth. Looking at area sales, contacting appraisers, and comparing assessments of similar homes can do this. Sales and assessment information is available in the Assessor's office, and at the Kenosha Public Library. The information in the Assessor's Office is open to the public for review during regular business hours.

How will my taxes change as a result of the new assessment?

Though the value of your property affects your share of taxes, the actual amount you pay is determined by the budget needs of the schools, city, county, sewer district, technical college, and state reforestation. All of these taxing units decide what services they will provide in the coming year and how much money they will need to provide those services. Once this decision is made, a tax rate is adopted that will generate the needed dollars. Your property taxes are then determined by dividing the tax rate by 1000 and multiplying by your assessment:
  Taxes = (Tax Rate / 1000) x Assessed Value

What is "Assessed Value"?

An estimate of value assigned to taxable property by the Assessor for purposes of property taxation. State law requires all assessments to be at 100% of market value. Assessed values most closely reflect market value following a revaluation. In non-revaluation years, assessments typically reflect a fraction of market value due to the changing real estate market.

What is the "Assessment Ratio"?

The relationship between the assessed value and equalized value of all taxable property within a municipality. For example, if the assessed value of all the taxable property in the City is $13,900,000,000 and the equalized value is $14,000,000,000 the assessment level would be 98.6%.
   Assessment Ratio = Assessed Value / Equalized Value

What is "Equalized Value"?

The full market value of all taxable property in a municipality, both real and personal. The Department of Revenue each year determines the equalized value.

What is "Market Value"?

The amount a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property. For a sale to represent market value, the seller must be willing (but not under pressure) to sell and the buyer must be willing (but not under any obligation) to buy. The property must be on the market for a reasonable length of time, the payment must be in cash or its equivalent, and the financing must be typical for that type of property.

What is the "Tax Base"?

The total assessed value of all assessments in the municipality that are subject to local property taxes.

What are "Taxing Bodies"?

The following taxing bodies determine the total tax levy for property located in the City of Kenosha. Kenosha Unified School District, City of Kenosha, Kenosha County, Gateway Technical College, and the State of Wisconsin (for reforestation).

What is the "Tax Levy"?

The total amount of property tax money that a taxing unit (such as the schools, city, county, etc.) needs to raise to provide services.

What is the "Tax Rate"?

The tax levy (as determined by the taxing bodies) divided by the tax base. It is often expressed in terms of dollars per thousand. The tax rate is multiplied by the assessed value to determine the amount of tax that each property must pay.

What property qualifies for property tax exemption?

The general rule is that all property in Wisconsin is taxable unless it is specifically exempt from tax by the state legislature. The legislature enacted state statute section 70.11 that lists about 40 categories of specific exemptions. Statutes granting exemption are, according to the legislature and the courts, strictly construed against exemption and in favor of taxation. The property owner has the burden to prove entitlement to exemption and that it fits clearly within a precise statutory exemption category. Typically, under the categories in state statute section 70.11, exemption is based on ownership of the property, use of the property or a combination of ownership and use. Besides the exemption categories listed in state statute section 70.11, other exemption possibilities exist. For example, separate and additional categories of exempt personal property are listed in state statute section 70.111; and, under state statute section 70.112, property (such as property of a utility company) subject to a different form of tax, is typically exempt from property tax.

If we are a tax exempt organization for federal income tax purposes (such as a 501(c)(3) corporation, do we automatically qualify for property tax exemption?

No. Federal income tax exemption (such as 501(c)(3) status) does not guarantee property tax exemption. Income tax exemption is governed by federal law and Internal Revenue Code requirements. Property tax exemption is governed by separate state law concepts and requirements.

Can property be partially exempt?

Yes, under the right circumstances. Property used in part for exempt purposes and in part for an unrelated trade or business for which the owner is subject to income tax under the Internal Revenue Code may be partially taxed on that portion which is attributable to the unrelated trade or business. State statute section 70.1105 contains requirements for partial exemption. Besides the section 70.1105 requirements, owners seeking partial exemption must be aware of the leasing and rent restrictions in section 70.11's preamble.

If I think my property qualifies for property tax exemption what do I do?

A Wisconsin Department of Revenue application form must be filed with the Assessor for the locality in which the property is located. The application form may be obtained from the local Assessor. The form must be filed for any property that was taxed in the previous year but, because of a change in the use, occupancy or ownership, it may now qualify for exemption. The application must be filed by March 1st of the year for which exemption is sought. Remember that the presumption is that property is taxable, and the owner seeking exemption has the burden to show that the property clearly qualifies for exemption. The application must be completed in its entirety so that necessary information is provided to the Assessor to allow for an informed decision. In certain cases, the Assessor may require additional information. Insufficient information may result in denial of the application. No application needs to be filed for certain property, such as municipal property, property of the state, and manufacturing machinery and equipment. You should check section 70.11 to see if an application is necessary for your organization and your property.

If my organization currently owns property that is exempt, does additional property acquired by my organization automatically qualify for exemption?

No. An organization acquiring additional property must apply with the local Assessor by the March 1st deadline for exemption on that new property. Exemption determinations are made annually. When use or ownership change so that property may qualify for exemption, an exemption application must be timely filed. Be aware that newly acquired property may cause an owner to exceed statutory acreage limitations on exemption.

If my organization does not own real estate, must it file an exemption application for its personal property?

Yes. The requirements of state statute section 70.11 apply to both real and personal property.

Is there a filing deadline?

Yes. Applications for exemption must be filed with the local Assessor on or before March 1st of the year for which exemption is sought.

What if I miss the deadline?

March 1st is a statutory deadline that must be met to obtain the benefit of property tax exemption. If the deadline is missed, no exemption can be granted for that year.

Are there any other important dates?

Yes. Besides the March 1 exemption application deadline, January 1, March 15, and March 31 are important dates. In Wisconsin, a property's status (taxable or exempt) is determined as of January 1 of each year. Ownership and use as of that date is critical since there is no pro-ration of the tax if property is acquired or sold later in the year. For example, if an entity that would otherwise qualify for property tax exemption acquires its parcel on February 1, the first year it could possibly qualify for exemption under a section 70.11 category would be January 1 of the following year. January 1 is also important because, even if an exemption has been granted for a given year, the Assessor may review and even deny the exemption for the following year. The status of the property as of each new January 1 governs whether the property is entitled to exemption for that year. As explained below, March 15 and March 31 are important dates because they are deadlines for owners of already-exempt property to file certain reports.

Who makes the exemption determination?

While the state legislature created the state statutes creating the exemption categories, the local Assessor determines, on a case-by-case basis, whether an owner proved that its property fits within a category and whether the property is thus exempt.

Is the Assessor required to notify me of the determination?

In most cases, the Assessor will notify the organization seeking exemption of the determination, but the Assessor is not required to do so.

What if I disagree with the Assessor's exemption determination?

The owner must follow the exclusive procedure set forth in state statute section 74.35. The local board of review does not have any authority regarding exemption issues.

If the exemption is granted, do I have further obligations?

Yes. Annually, by March 15th, any organization that owns property that is exempt under section 70.11 (except property of the state or municipality), and that was used in a trade or business for which the owner was subject to tax under sections 511 to 515 of the Internal Revenue Code, must file a report with the clerk of the taxation district detailing the activities and a description of the property used in the trade or business (section 70.339). The report form is prescribed by the Department of Revenue and available from the local municipality. By March 31st of each even-numbered year, owners of property exempt under section 70.11, must file a report with the clerk of the taxation district describing the property, giving the owner's estimate of its fair market value, and indicating if the property was leased in the preceding two years (section 70.337). This report form is also prescribed by the Department of Revenue and available from the local municipality.

What if I don't agree with my assessment?

Talk with the Assessor. During this informal session you can learn how your assessment was made, what factors were considered, and what type of records are kept regarding your property. If you have evidence that our assessment differs from the actual fair market value of your property, we would like to review all pertinent information. If you have a recent written appraisal by an independent appraiser, furnish the Assessor's Office with a copy.

After this review, if I still think the assessment is incorrect, what can I do?

The next step is to file an objection with the Assessor's Office. Your objection must be written and must be filed within 15 days of the mailing of the assessment notice. Forms are available in the Assessor's Office. When you receive your tax bill in December, it is too late to file an objection. Paying your taxes under protest does not constitute an assessment objection unless you have first filed an appeal with the Board of Review. You must fully answer all questions on the objection form and the property owner or your agent must sign the form. If you intend to be represented by an agent or attorney, you must complete an agent's authorization form giving the Assessor authority to release information concerning your property. These forms are available at the Office of the City Assessor.

What happens if I file an objection?

Your appeal will be assigned to an appraiser from the Assessor's Office. To properly review the assessment, the appraiser will want to review your property description with you. This might include an interior inspection of your property. You should include with your objection form all information you feel will be helpful in reviewing the assessment. If the property is commercial, you must also include all income and expense information concerning the property. After the review, the Assessor will recommend a value to the Board of Assessors, a group of assessment personnel responsible for reviewing all assessment objections. You will receive written notification of the Board's decision. At this point if you choose to continue your appeal to the Board of Review, you must notify the City Assessor's office in writing within 15 days of the notice.

What is the Board of Review?

The Board of Review is a five-member citizen panel, appointed by the Mayor. It is the Board's duty to hear evidence by the taxpayer and the Assessor and to decide if the assessment is correct.

What evidence do I need to present to the Board of Review?

State law puts the burden of proof on the property owner to show that the assessment is incorrect. Keep in mind that your evidence must be strong enough to prove that the Assessor's value is incorrect. The Board will consider only relevant testimony given at the hearing. STATING THAT PROPERTY TAXES ARE TOO HIGH IS NOT RELEVANT TESTIMONY. You should establish in your own mind what you think your property is worth. The best evidence for this would be recent sales prices for properties similar to yours. The closer in proximity and similarity, the better the evidence. The Board of Review will only accept sworn oral testimony.

Does the Board of Review have the final say?

Appeals can be withdrawn or settled at any stage in the process. If you don't agree with the Board of Review decision, the next step is an appeal to the Circuit Court.

How do I appeal my assessment to court?

An appeal to the circuit court must be made within 90 days after notification of the decision of the Board of Review. The court will then make a decision based solely on the testimony that was presented to the Board of Review. When your case goes before the circuit court, the court will review the record that was created at your Board of Review hearing and make its decision.