A $1.5M mistake: Lack of communication costs Polk County

Local News

ALTOONA — A lack of communication cost Polk County roughly $1.5 million according to data on the Polk County Assessor’s website.

Bondurant-Farrar Community School District was supposed to get almost $900,000 of that funding, but because of an incorrect property tax assessment, that money won’t be coming.

Facebook and Altoona reached an agreement with the state to exempt their buildings from property taxes for 20 years.

The Polk County Assessor’s Office knew about the original agreement, but didn’t know it was amended, so they incorrectly assessed part of Facebook’s property last year.

The assessor’s office realized the mistake in April 2019. The Polk County Board of Appeals agreed, and ruled in July 2019 that they couldn’t be assessed for two buildings on their property.

“The school, city and county taxing bodies based their budgets and their levy was calculated on a taxable value that was then reduced by $47 million when the error was corrected,” said Bryon Tack, director of commercial real estate at the Polk County Assessor’s Office.

Who should have told the assessor’s office?

There was a bit of confusion about who was responsible for telling the assessor’s office about the amendment.

Wednesday morning, the assessor’s office told Local 5 the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the city of Altoona should have told them about the exemption.

When Local 5 talked to the city of Altoona, they said they weren’t responsible — the state was.

However, the Iowa Economic Development Authority told Local 5 the city of Altoona was responsible for alerting the assessor’s office, not them.

It turns out, the state is correct. Administrative rules say local communities are responsible for alerting assessors to these agreements.

“The community shall provide the authority and the local assessor with a copy of the resolution adopted by its governing body which indicates the estimated value and duration of the authorized exemption. “

261 IAC 68.4(3)

Altoona’s city administrator told Local 5 that he wasn’t aware the city had to tell the assessor about the agreement, but the Iowa Economic Development Authority said the city should have been since it’s noted on program applications.

Facebook spokeswoman Melanie Roe said the company learned about the error just a few days ago.

Moving forward, the city of Altoona said they are going to make sure they notify the assessor anytime there are agreements like this.

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