Cass County Assessor Brenda Nelson said she was essentially blinded-sided by the decision Thursday night by the Cass County Conference Board, not to re-appoint her to the position beginning January, 2016. Earlier, Duane McFadden, who represented to Board of Supervisors at the Conference Board meeting, had said there were several questions Nelson could not or would not answer. Nelson told KJAN News that’s because those questions required specific facts and figures which she did not have available because she was not requested to produce them prior to the meeting.
She says she was questioned on the number of working hours (which she says was approved by the board many years ago), the use of an outside appraisal company (that the board approves every year in her budget), and that the Conference Board told her there were complaints her staff had been rude to the customers, and she [Nelson] had not done anything about it.
Nelson said she was also asked why commercial property taxes are so high. She explained that when sales come through on a commercial property, she has to indicate what the assessment is. She says that within the last year or two, assessments have generally been 13-percent too low. A building assessed at $100,000 should bring that much at sale, but they are selling for about 13-percent more than the assessed value.
Part of the problem she says, is that the assessment is based on the building and land alone. Its contents or permanent fixtures inside, may be unknown to the assessor unless they are reported to the Recorders Office. For example, when the Atlantic Animal Health Center was sold, Dr. Leonard noted the building was being sold with examination tables, animal chutes and kennels.
She says if the seller doesn’t disclose the contents of the building is being including when documents are given to the Recorder at the time the sale is registered, it tends to skew the numbers the Recorder sends in to the State, because State officials will think it’s only for the building and the land. One or two or types of artificially inflated sales in the County, according to Nelson, can inadvertently give her a State-ordered increase because it appears she is way too low on the assessments.
Nelson says if she could have been given 15-minutes to go into her office and retrieved the information she asked for, that would have helped. As for the Geographic Information System position, Nelson says the Director is an AMU employee who contracts with the Assessor’s Office two-days per week. That person, she says wanted a bigger office, and Nelson’s employee, Mike Onnen, the GIS Coordinator, in turn, wanted to take the Director’s Office.
Nelson says the Board of Supervisors gave conflicting information as to what office space was available and where Onnen would be located. She said also, the other County departments which utilize GIS mapping, have not, as has been stated to the contrary, contributed to the cost of the employee. Brenda Nelson says she doesn’t know what the future holds for her, including whether she would re-apply for her job. She said nothing was said at the meeting about whether or not she had fulfilled her hours to even be able to qualify to re-appointment or with regard to State documentation of those hours.