Sorting out those property assessments

Residential properties see increase, agricultural values dip

Property values shot up in most communities in the Fort Dodge area after 2019 county assessments were recently revealed to their owners.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, some communities experienced higher overall increases than others.

In Eagle Grove, the overall percentage increase for residential properties is 20.01 percent compared to a 3.28 percent increase for residential properties in Belmond.

Those percentages are based on the total property value from 2018 compared to 2019.

Wright County Assessor Shari Plagge said the difference in increases across various communities is a reflection of changes in the market.

“A lot of the value changes that were made this year were simply due to market conditions that have changed,” Plagge said. “In the Eagle Grove area, that area of my county has seen a lot more sales that are much more than what my assessed values are. The median was lower, so I had to raise it more to get to that 100 percent.”

Properties are supposed to reflect 100 percent of market value.

But Plagge said the law allows for assessments to be between 95 percent and 105 percent of the market value.

“If a property sells for $100,000, and we only have $80,000 as an assessed value, that’s an 80 percent sales ratio,” she said. “So by law, once we have enough sales and data, one sale does not make a market, but if we have enough of them to show that our sales ratios are outside of that 95 to 105, we have to make adjustments so that our assessments are within that 95 to 105 sales ratio median.”

After the new assessments, Wright County’s median sales ratio is 97.07 percent.

According to Plagge, a complete reappraisal project was conducted for commercial, industrial, and multiresidential properties in Wright County.

“Those changes were not only market changes, but it could have been changes in the property since the last time we visited them,” Plagge said.

She said the last visit could have been two years ago or even 15 years ago.

“That’s the whole point of a reappraisal project is to get everything up to date and on the same level,” Plagge said. “In between those projects, we just do what is necessary as far as changes to the property and market changes too. But we don’t do 100 percent walkthrough like we do for 2019 for commercial and residential properties.”

The overall value of one four-unit apartment building in Woolstock, increased from $39,500 to $57,000, representing a 44.3 percent increase. That property is considered residential.

One house on West Broadway Avenue increased from $85,100 to $106,400, a percentage increase of 25.03.

Plagge said a vast majority of value changes to residential properties were related to market changes and not improvements made to the property.

Countywide, there was an 8.64 percent increase in property value. Commercial properties increased 9.32 percent. And multiresidential experienced a 15.3 percent increase.

The per acre value of agricultural properties decreased by 30 percent across the county.

Plagge said the value of agricultural properties is based on productivity and not market value.

The impacts of the new assessments will not be known until the Department of Revenue sets its rollback percentage.

“That’s how the state tries to minimize huge increases and decreases,” Plagge said. “They try and control that taxable value. It can’t shift more than 3 percent — the taxable value. The taxable value for the state cannot go down or up more than 3 percent. That helps level things out when you have these huge swings in value.”

Plagge said that number could be released in November.

“Usually what happens when the value drops so significantly, there is a rollback in place to try and level out those large increases and decreases,” she said.

She added, “Even though we are seeing a pretty significant decrease in ag value, the estimate is about 4.9 percent reduction due to the rollbacks. You won’t see a 30 percent; you will see a little less than 5 percent in the taxable value.”

In terms of industrial property values in Wright County, the overall value increased by 35.95 percent.

Plagge attributes that entire jump to Prestage Foods of Iowa’s recently constructed pork plant south of Eagle Grove.

According to Plagge, without the addition of Prestage, the overall value for industrial properties actually decreased by 13 percent.

Industrial properties are not equalized by the Department of Revenue like agricultural properties are.

The new assessments for property taxes go into effect in September 2020.

In Webster County, the overall percentage increase for residential properties is 3.2 percent. Commercial properties increased by 3.5 percent.

The county saw an overall increase of 11 percent on industrial properties.

Why have industrial numbers gone up?

It may be because of investments in the county, Vinson said.

“In Webster County we not only have new businesses coming to town, we have businesses reinvesting in the community,” she said. “Koch Nitrogen, Elanco, CJ Bio and Cargill are all putting up new buildings.”

Webster County hasn’t done anything with agricultural rates yet, Assessor Angie Vinson said. By law, agricultural assessments are based on a five-year productivity value.

“We rely on the (Iowa) Department of Revenue for averages, for the five-year productivity value, but because of the government shutdown this year, we weren’t able to get those numbers,” Vinson said.

The county will leave values unchanged for now, and make adjustments in the fall after more numbers come in.

“I believe in ‘measure twice, cut once,'” she said.

While 3.2 percent may be the average for residential properties, various towns in Webster County have gone up more or less.

Otho saw the greatest increase in residential assessments, at 10 percent. Gowrie, Badger and Vincent all had 5 percent increases.

Fort Dodge is split up into 31 different map areas, so that similar areas are compared to each other, and similar houses — not the town as a whole.

“Some went up as much as 10 percent; some went down as much as 15 percent,” she said.

In Hamilton County, Assessor Kevin Bahrenfuss said there were no revaluation adjustments for commercial, industrial, or multiresidential properties. The only changes were if there was construction.

Agricultural assessments decreased countywide by an average of 28 percent.

Residential values went up by an average of 13 percent.

Staff Writer Joe Sutter contributed to this story.

Countywide valuations —

percent increase or decrease


Residential, 8 percent increase

Commercial, 4 percent increase

Industrial, 2 percent increase

Multiresidential, 23 percent increase

Agricultural, 16 percent decrease


Residential, 13 percent increase

Commercial, no change

Industrial, no change

Multiresidential, no change

Agricultural, 28 percent decrease


Residential, 15 to 20 percent increase

Commercial, 5 percent increase

Industrial, no change

Multiresidential, no change

Agricultural, no change


Residential, 3 percent increase

Commercial, 1 percent increase

Industrial, 1 percent increase

Multiresidential, 1 percent increase

Agricultural, 29 percent decrease


Residential, 12 to 13 percent increase

Commercial, 3 to 5 percent increase

Multiresidential, no change

Industrial, 3 percent increase

Agricultural, 30 percent decrease


Residential, 8.64 percent increase

Commercial, 9.32 percent increase

Industrial, 35.95 percent increase

Multiresidential, 15.32 percent increase

Agricultural, 50.03 percent decrease


Residential, 3.2 percent increase

Commercial, 3.5 percent increase

Industrial, 11 percent increase

Multiresidential, 8.5 percent increase

Agricultural, to be determined