Apparently our front-page story Tuesday about declining property values in Minocqua generated a lot of emotion. Some worried about the depth of decline in market values; others welcomed the news that property assessments will likely reflect that decline when it comes to tax time.
Still others, however, wanted to kill the messenger. The news about local property values is surely bad, this crowd argued, so why publish it at all? Why do even more damage?
First, we reject the idea that reporting the news will impact what is going in the market, one way or another. There are way too many large-scale economic factors involved, from national trends to regional pressures, for a news story to influence market trends.
While it gives us no pleasure to report bad news, it is what it is. In fact, the report of preliminary figures from Minocqua's ongoing revaluation merely confirms what everybody knows anyway.
What's more, we believe the story serves the public in several useful ways. First, rather than wake up to bad news in the mailbox in October, Minocqua residents now understand what is coming for many, if not most, of them. Those concerned are welcome to call Minocqua's assessor, Kit Koski, at the town office, as he stressed in the article. People also have time to prepare a proper appeal of an anticipated lower assessment.
For citizens and town officials alike, the news also gives everybody time to prepare for the town's fall budget process. Lower assessments in the general neighborhood of 19 percent mean lower revenues for the town, unless officials raise tax rates to compensate for the slump on the equalization side.
For town officials, it's a good time to ask, is it wise to raise taxes in this fragile economy? What services and programs might we cut or trim instead of raising tax rates? These are serious questions, and they deserve serious reflection. Town officials now have the time to do so.
Ditto with the public. If your property is reassessed downward, that doesn't necessarily mean a lower tax bill if officials do indeed raise tax rates. Which would you rather see - a smaller, leaner government or the same tax bill on lower-valued property? Now's the time to communicate with your elected representatives.
For officials in other towns and on school boards, the news serves as a call to attention, too. If Minocqua residents pay less in taxes to Lakeland Union High School because of the revaluation, to cite just one example, property owners in other towns will see their share of the LUHS tax bill rise as a result. And so, it is a time of consideration for officials and taxpayers in all the Lakeland area, not just Minocqua.
Finally, some have told us that property values may have actually turned the corner in the past few months and begun to rise. We certainly hope so, and will duly report it if and when such news is confirmed. But right now, the review of 120 properties in Minocqua has shown a continuing downward slide, by 19 percent since 2007 and by about 9 percent since Jan. 1, 2011. Those are the numbers that will impact official assessments and budget numbers this year, for better or for worse. And that is what we reported, nothing more and nothing less.
The views presented here represent the opinions of the majority of the The Lakeland Times editorial board, but do not reflect the opinions of all employees of The Lakeland Times.