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Homeowners: Our town raised our taxes because we closed the door on inspectors

By   /   August 6, 2014  /   No Comments

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

AP file photo

DON’T COME IN: A couple is suing the town of Dover because they claim their house was assessed higher than it should have been because they refused to let an appraiser inside their home.

DOVER, Wis. — A Dover couple says their property taxes rose after they refused to let a government-contracted appraiser inside their house during a 2013 reassessment of local property values, according to a lawsuit filed late last month in Racine County Circuit Court.

The suit, submitted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), alleges the town and Gardiner Appraisal Service assessed the property of Vincent Milewski and Morganne MacDonald at an “excessive, arbitrary and discriminatory level” to bully the married couple into accepting “future intrusive searches.”

An assessor tried to view the parcel on Aug. 20, 2013, but left when MacDonald told the employee they could only inspect the property from the exterior, according to the lawsuit.

“State law does not require assessors to view the interior of homes, and the assessors here did not even bother asking the Plaintiffs about the condition of their home, instead assuming, without any evidence, that the Plaintiffs had engaged in costly alterations and upgrades of their interior,” the lawsuit says.

The couple’s parcel was assessed at $307,100, a 10.56 percent increase from the previous year’s assessment of $277,761, according to the lawsuit. Milewski and MacDonald believe their property should’ve been assessed at $232,600, resulting in a decrease of $1,268.71 in property taxes.

When Milewski and MacDonald investigated other assessments in their Lorimar Estates subdivision, they say they found that three other property owners who did not have assessors inspect the inside of their homes saw their values jump by an average of 10.01 percent, according to a WILL press release.

But the subdivision’s 39 other property owners, who let assessors into their homes, experienced an average decrease in value of 5.81 percent.

“Gardiner possessed no information that would support raising the assessments of those four parcels while decreasing the assessments for the other 39 parcels,” the lawsuit contends.

State law prohibits Milewski and MacDonald from challenging their assessment in front of the Board of Review because they did not consent to a government search, according to WILL.

“This case implicates one of the most fundamental rights protected by the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions — the right of private individuals to be free from unreasonable searches of their property,” the lawsuit says.

Town officials could not be reached for comment because Wisconsin Reporter obtained a copy of the lawsuit after business hours.

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Adam Tobias, a 2004 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, joined Wisconsin Reporter in 2013 after working for two daily newspapers for nearly 10 years. In addition to winning first-place awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and West Virginia Press Association, Adam’s stories have appeared on Fox News, the Washington Times, National Review Online, Human Events, Breitbart and Right Wing News. Contact Adam at atobias@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias.

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