Many Minnesota homeowners are getting nasty surprises in the mail. Property valuations are rising, in some cases, by $100,000 or more.
That means some tax bills will likely balloon as well.
City and county budgets determine how many total property tax dollars are needed. Home valuations are simply used to determine the portion of the total that you have to pay.
As the housing market recovers, higher sale prices typically equal higher home values. Still, some homeowners say there's no explanation for the increases on their horizon.
"It wasn't exactly something that sits well with me," said Alan DeFlorio.
The property valuation for DeFlorio's Woodbury home jumped from $411,000 to $519,000, about 25 percent in one year. What's more, Washington County thinks his home is worth nearly $50,000 more than what he bought it for just four months ago.
"It's hard to not look at this as being arbitrary," DeFlorio said.
"People that are appraisers always say that appraisal is more of an art than a science, and there's certainly some truth to that," said Ramsey County Assessor Stephen Baker.
His office has already received 600-700 phone calls from homeowners upset with their valuations. In Ramsey County, 86 percent of single-family homes saw an increase, and more than half of all valuations spiked more than 10 percent. The median assessed valuation for next year is up nearly 11 percent.
Some homeowners are suspicious that hiking property valuations is just a sneaky way to raise more tax revenue.
"Absolutely not the case. That's truly not what we do," Baker said. "We really look at our role as trying to make sure that everybody pays their fair, equitable share of the tax."
Baker said valuations are based on thousands of in-person inspections (about 37,000 in Ramsey County every year), sale prices, and sophisticated computer models.
"Our role is about dividing up the bill appropriately, and we take that role very seriously," Baker said.
DeFlorio is taking his valuation seriously. He's already asked Washington County to take another look.
"I would love to be able to turn around and sell my house right now for this kind of an increase from when I bought it. I would do it and go buy another house," DeFlorio said, with a laugh.
Of course, homeowners can appeal their valuations between April and June. But all values are finalized on July 1.
Increased home valuations do not guarantee increased property taxes. But if your property taxes increase by more than 12 percent in any given year, you can get back 40 percent of the increase above 12 percent, up to $1,000 -- regardless of income.
About 40 percent of folks eligible for that refund don't even apply.