Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 7, 2008

Sullivan’s Salvos 12/9/08

Johnson County is holding an open house Tuesday at 4 PM for the new SEATS and Secondary Roads building on Melrose Avenue just west of Highway 218.

I urge everyone to stop out, enjoy some refreshments, and learn more about the SEATS and Secondary Roads departments.

Remember how I talked about my goal of every Department Head in Johnson County being among Iowa’s 3-4 best at her/his particular job? One Department Head who exceeds that lofty standard is County Assessor Bill Greazel. The Johnson County Assessor routinely ranks in the top 2 in Iowa by every objective measure. Assessor Greazel recently wrote an outstanding piece explaining the current state of valuations in Johnson County. I am reprinting a slightly edited version here:

State law requires that all real estate in Iowa be revalued every odd-numbered year. Typically, in anticipation of this, we’d be starting to prepare assessment notices to send to all Johnson County property owners next April. That’s what we’ve done every odd-numbered year in recent history. In 2009, however, we won’t be doing such a mailing.

That’s because most property values are unchanged since the last assessment cycle in 2007—and it’s not economical to spend 60 cents (or more) to mail notices saying that nothing has changed. (Of course, owners whose property has changed in value for various reasons will still be notified.)

Some residents will be disappointed to learn that property values are not continuing to climb like they have in past years. The good news is that Johnson County fares better than most other areas of the U.S. right now; values in some markets have declined 30 percent or more. The market here is still stable and generally healthy.

There will also be property owners who expect their assessment to go down because of all the negative news about real estate lately; a few might even wish for that scenario because it might mean a decrease in their property taxes. But they probably don’t realize that having a real estate investment go down in value is not a good thing—it’s akin to watching a bank or other investment account balance decline.

To be sure, the number of Johnson County residential sales are down about 12 percent from 2007. (They’re down more than 18 percent in Iowa City proper.) But median sale prices (and thus assessed values) in Johnson County have not declined as sales have slowed.

Some real estate markets are also battered by foreclosures, which can drive all home prices lower. (Foreclosures sometimes cause a glut of homes on the market, and they’re often sold at fire-sale prices.) We’re fortunate to escape most of this situation in Johnson County. Through third quarter 2008, foreclosures accounted for less than 4 percent of all residential sales, and so far are having a negligible impact on prices.

We can’t predict where the market is headed—our mission is to stay focused on current real estate values. But we are pleased to be living and working in a market where values are holding steady, and the outlook is positive.

In the wake of Thanksgiving, perhaps you need something additional for which to be thankful. Try this:

I drove for the Shelter Overflow on Thanksgiving night. In addition to a full 29 people at Shelter House, 21 additional people spent the night at Saint Thomas More. It was so crowded that St. Thomas More even ran out of blankets!

On one of our biggest holidays, when people get together with family and friends to share a feast, the Shelter House is that overcrowded. Add in the population at DVIP and people who remained out on the street, and it is reasonable to assume that over 100 people in Johnson County had nowhere to sleep Thanksgiving night.

Just a few hours later, at the ridiculous hours of 4, 5, and 6 AM, shoppers streamed to worship at the temples of retail. What if just one percent of the money spent on Friday the 28th was donated to Shelter House?

I think next year, Shelter House ought to hold a fundraiser at 4 AM on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Advertise it right alongside Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Give people a legitimate reason to be out at that time.

DID YOU KNOW? One half of the homes that the US will need by the year 2030 do not exist today. (Source: the Brookings Institute.)

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website- .

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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