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Philip city council denies two property assessment appeals

by Del Bartels

The Philip City Council met on March 16, first as a board of equalization, then as the city council.

The meeting was held in the Commissioner's Room on the second floor of the courthouse because of construction work being done in the community room.

Rita Merrill, Director of Equalization for Haakon County, said in her annual report, "We try to make sure property values are at 100 percent of sale values, then taxable value is set at 85 percent of that. We had a light year of growth for 2008. Haakon County had a growth of new construction valued at $1,165,368 for the 2008 year, taxable in 2009. The City of Philip had a growth in new buildings valued at $75,799 in 2008.

"Sales have been doing well," said Merrill. "Sales are higher than assessments. If the sales are more than 150 percent of assessment, I have to throw out that comparison, but plenty of sales did fit into the formula. We use arms-length sales. In big cities, comparisons use three sales within six months and within three blocks. Every year I am amazed at the number of sales in Philip, but, here, I have to use the whole town and a whole year."

There were only three appeals by property owners to have their property valuations lowered. Because of acceptable factoring, one owner's property valuation was lowered a bit and he was satisfied. The board accepted the appeal. Two appeals were not altered, not accepted, and the property owners may continue the appeal process to the county commissioners. The Haakon County Commissioners will meet as a board of equalization on April 14 at 9:00 a.m.

Mayor John Hart said, "As a board of equalization, the council can only recommend. It has no real authority to do anything." Councilman Mike Vetter questioned valuations of property compared to the ability to acquire loans to buy that property. He asked, "If you can't get a loan for the appraised value of a house in order to buy that house, what is the true market value of that house?"

The city council discussed the architectural plans for the municipal building office. A fire sprinkler system and other features are being looked into. The topic was tabled until next meeting.

The board approved extending the water main from Ash Street to W. Oak St. prior to the Ash St. improvement project. The six inch main will then be in a loop system, rather than a dead-end. The initial costs would be higher now, but far lower doing this during pre-construction than years from now.

A one-time grant toward the retro-reflectivity sign replacement quote has caused the council to discuss putting all the possible signs on a first bid. Originally the necessary signs would be replaced first, then others would be done as budgeting allowed. Savings in the long run may warrant the initial costs. This was tabled until next meeting.

The council approved collecting racial and ethnic data as required by USDA Rural Development for loan compliance. All information, voluntary and anonymous, will be done through a management type function, rather than specific surveys.

Various city job descriptions are being continually updated for hiring and workers compensation purposes.

The next regular meeting for the Philip City Council will be at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in the commissioner's room.