Davison County Commission examines streamlined equalizationA proposal for a new, streamlined equalization process was discussed during the Davison County Commission meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Mitchell.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
A proposal for a new, streamlined equalization process was discussed during the Davison County Commission meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Mitchell.
The information was brought to the commissioners by county attorney Jim Taylor and Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch. The proposal would combine the separate equalization boards of the school district, city of Mitchell and Davison County into one consolidated board.
Township boards around Davison County would also be asked to participate, but their participation would not be mandatory for the consolidation board to form. The cities of Mount Vernon and Ethan would also be invited, but not required, to join the board, as would school districts that overlap into Davison County.
The school district, city and county would all have to agree to form the joint board.
“It is completely consensual. If a township wants to join the board, they could, but they by no means have to,” Taylor said.
Under a consolidated board, any property tax payer in the relevant jurisdictions who feels aggrieved by anything in the tax assessment roll could appeal to the consolidated board.
Under the current system, a taxpayer must first appeal to a local board, and if the taxpayer does not get relief there, a further appeal can be made to the county board.
“Last year, with the number of appeals we had, an equalization consolidation was brought up as a way to streamline the process and ultimately make it easier for the taxpayer,” Goetsch said.
Goetsch said if the consolidation is adopted, taxpayers will not only be saved a step in the process but also will have more time to prepare appeals.
Members of the consolidated board would only be allowed to participate and vote in equalization of property within the boundaries of their respective taxing district.
“An example would be the member of the city of Mitchell that were to sit on the board could not vote on an issues that falls outside city limits,” Taylor said.
Operation costs would be shared among each of the entities represented on the board.
“It seems like expenses should be reduced as a whole, because we are going from doing multiple processes to one process,” Taylor said.
Because equalization is ultimately the decision of county commissioners, South Dakota law mandates that the majority of a combined equalization board must consist of county commissioners.
Any resident that feels aggrieved by the decision of the consolidated board would still be able to appeal to the state Office of Hearing Examiners or circuit court.
Davison County Fairgrounds
Possibly allowing alcohol to be served at the Davison County Fairgrounds was discussed Tuesday as commissioners looked at ways to help pay operating costs on the complex.
In 2010, operation costs for the complex were more than $77,000, while income was $15,506.
Of the 364 times the facility was rented in 2010, 68 of those came from SDSU Cooperative Extension — a figure which will drop significantly in 2011 as the Extension office moves out of the fairgrounds and onto Mitchell Technical Institute’s campus along Interstate 90. Those fees were for meetings and seminars conducted by the Extension Service, which did not pay rent to have its Mitchell office at the fairgrounds.
“We lost over $60,000 last year that could have gone to pay something else, so we have to figure something we can do with these buildings,” said Commission Chairman John Claggett.
Davison County Sherriff Dave Miles noted that if alcohol is allowed to be served when the fairgrounds is rented, a law enforcement officer would need to be at the site.
“I can’t have my on-duty guys being out there the whole night, so that would be something where we have to hire an off-duty officer,” Miles said.
Miles said renters could pay for the law enforcement officer if they want alcohol to be served.
The Davison County Fair Board gave its blessing Aug. 23 for commissioners to allow alcohol at events on the fairgrounds.
Another idea for extra revenue from the complex is to rent out vacant office space to other governmental entities, commissioners said.
The commission opted Tuesday to continue brainstorming before making any decisions about the building.
A high resolution oblique imagery system was proposed to the commisioners.
Doug Tonnemacher, district manager of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota for Pictometry Intelligent Images, touted the benefits of the software that would use fly-over imagery to give 3D mapping of Davison County.
According Tonnemacher, those maps could be used for a number of purposes throughout the county, including public safety, equalization, engineering and community development.
Equalization Director Kathy Goetsch said the imagery would be a useful tool in detecting properties not previously accounted for on tax records.
“If we drive out to a place on a road, we may not see that new grain bin that is behind a shelterbelt, so this software would help us find those new buildings,” said Goetsch.
Commissioners Jerry Fischer and Gerald Weiss were both concerned that the software would reduce the amount of time assessors are on the ground visiting properties.
Both Goetsch and Tonenemacher said the software is meant to be used in conjunction with onsite analysis, not to replace it.
The imagery would be taken by plane in the spring of 2012, and a second flight could then be taken three years later.
A computer analysis of the two sets of flights could be run to find any changes made to property within that time.
The cost of the project would either be $59,295 spread out over three years for one flight, or two flights at $43,899 for the first three years and $51,850 for the second three years.
Prices would be cut by 10 percent if McCook, Hanson and Davison counties all buy the new software.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners:
* Approved the purchase of a 2005 Dodge pickup for the price of $17,000 for the Highway Department.
* Heard concerns of citizens about draining issues within one mile of the intersection of 249th Street and 407th Avenue.
Commissioners decided until engineering firms can give a quote on the cost to study the project, they will not move forward on any action.
* Approved the moving of the Verizon Wireless antenna on the top of the courthouse so upgrades to the antenna could be made by Verizon Wireless.
* Approved the advertising for an assessor position by Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch to fill a vacancy.
* Approved the advertising of a secretary position for the Highway Department, because the current secretary is retiring.