Local assessors are employees of either the city or county in which they serve. They are hired by a conference board, which is comprised of the mayors of all incorporated cities in the county, one representative from the board of directors of each high school district of the county, and members of the board of supervisors. In cities having an assessor, the conference board consists of the members of the city council, the school board, and the county board of supervisors. Assessors are appointed by the conference board, and confirmed by the Department of Revenue to a six-year term. Each county in Iowa has a county assessor and several of the larger cities have a city assessor including Ames, Sioux City, Mason City, Davenport, Dubuque City, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. However, any city having a population of ten thousand or more according to the latest federal census may create, by ordinance, the office of city assessor.
Assessors determine classification and valuation of property as well as make recommendations for approval or denial for exemptions and some credits. The recommendations of the assessor are forwarded to the county board of supervisors for final approval for some credits.
Assessors do not determine overall budgets for the levying authorities outside of their own budget. They do not calculate taxable values or determine tax rates and they do not bill or collect taxes. The assessed value and classification of a property is a component of the overall tax burden specific to an individual property but assessors do not do any actual billing or collection of taxes.
The classification of property determined by the assessor is based upon the rules found within Iowa Administrative Code chapter 701--102. Administrative Rules can be found at the Iowa Legislature website at www.legis.iowa.gov.
Since Iowa law requires that property be assessed at a market value standard, assessors generally use arm’s length sales transactions to establish assessed values that are to be a reflection of actual or market value, excluding agriculturally classed property[BN. Agricultural property is based on a use value, i.e. productivity. For properties with limited sales activity other factors may be applied such as a cost approach or an income approach to value. The productivity value is a five year average landlord crop share income model using production, yields, prices, government programs less expenses and capitalized at 7% to yield a county productivity value per acre. This productivity value per acre is applied to agricultural land within the county and city.
Assessors in Iowa are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent, preliminary education, such as Basic Principles and Procedures of Appraisal, or a course on Iowa Laws or Iowa Assessment and Taxation. Additionally, assessors must have two years of appraisal related experience and must pass an examination to be employed as an assessor. Individuals that do not have two years of appraisal experience may be provisionally appointed as an assessor until they complete provisional training through the Department. Continuing education is required during the six year term to continue to be employed as an assessor.