Assessors office request for assistance still under consideration

At their Feb. 12 meeting, county commissioners did not 
disagree with the notion that the Assessor’s Office has a lot of work 
to do or that keeping more detailed property records is a good idea, 
but they weren’t ready at their February 12 county board meeting to 
grant Assessor Betty Schultz’s request for a new position in the 
department.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue (DOR) requires that counties 
assess at least one-fifth of their properties – called a quintile – 
each year so that all properties get assessed at least every five 
years.  The DOR is in the process of conducting a review of all 
Minnesota assessor offices to gauge compliance.
Cook County has not been able to meet the quintile requirement for 
years, and Assessor Schultz is trying to figure out how her department
is going to do it.  She said the DOR has told her the county must be 
in compliance within five years.  “It’s a serious responsibility,” she 
said.  “Right now we cannot meet the requirements at the current level 
of staffing.”
In addition to increasing the number of assessments the department 
will be doing each year, the county board has authorized Schultz to 
gather more detailed information on all properties and implement a new 
computer system to track that information.
The onsite assessment will involve measuring land elevations, views, 
access, lakeshore footage, roadways, tillable soils, water, sewer, and 
electric utilities, and buildings, including quality, condition, story 
heights, open vault areas, age, decks and porches, differing uses 
(commercial, industrial, residential, etc.), and percentage finished.
However, getting all of the information on one-fifth of the properties 
a year and entering it into the computer system will take time.  
Assessor Schultz said she believes they should be fiscally responsible 
but wants to do what’s in the best interest of the county as a whole.
Auditor-Treasurer Powers noted that former assessor Ted Mershon 
implemented GIS technology in order to add efficiency to their work.  
The county now has two GIS employees working in the Information 
Systems Department.
Last spring, former assessor Mary Black was one of several department 
heads who requested that the board spend $187,000 for aerial 
photographs of Cook County’s private property.  She told the board 
that aerial imagery aids them in classifying properties, saving them 
from having to walk through undeveloped land.  The board approved that 
expenditure.
At the county board meeting, the board passed a motion authorizing a 
task force to work with the assessor on the staffing issue and come 
back to the board with a recommendation.  The task force will consist 
of commissioners Bruce Martinson and Jan Hall, Auditor-Treasurer 
Powers, Personnel Director Janet Simonen, and Assessor Schultz.