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County appraiser tells her side of dispute with Diepenbrock

Managing editor

It’s a “he-said-she-said” kind of dispute that will not easily be resolved.

County Appraiser Cindy Magill believes she is being wrongly accused.

Rural Lincolnville resident Gary Diepenbrock demanded that Marion County Commission fire Magill because of the way she treated him and other taxpayers.

“Gary’s perception of my office is incorrect,” Magill said Friday.

The incident in question occurred Aug. 20, when Diepenbrock went to the appraiser’s office.

According to office staff members, Diepenbrock was gathering information about taxes on a trench silo and inquired whether a roof would add taxes to the property.

“I heard them talking about the situation, so I came out of my office to assist,” Magill said.

She told Diepenbrock that all silos were taxed unless an exemption was obtained from the state.

Further conversation revealed that Diepenbrock had obtained concrete panels for the walls of the silo and he planned to store distilled grains.

“We tried to tell him it would be taxed,” Magill said.

She offered to figure the taxes but needed to know the costs of the walls. Since the walls were not purchased, Magill told Diepenbrock more research would be needed.

“Gary wanted an answer that day and I couldn’t give it to him,” Magill said. “He became upset. I was shocked.”

When Diepenbrock left the appraiser’s office, Magill said he ran into a door, a noise heard even upstairs.

So, what caused the outburst? Magill said it might have stemmed from a previous encounter with Diepenbrock in 2005, when he applied for a tax rebate through the county’s neighborhood revitalization program.

A permit was issued for a machinery building and farm shop. Construction was completed in November 2006. As part of the process to receive a tax rebate for new construction, the property owner must provide information regarding actual costs of the project.

“Gary didn’t want to give me his total cost numbers,” Magill said.

One of the misconceptions of the revitalization program, Magill said, is taxpayers will be taxed the amount spent on the project.

“That’s the only other time I can recall there being any conflict with him,” Magill said.

Being county appraiser is not a popular job because taxpayers don’t fully understand the process of determining taxes. The county office must follow rules and regulations established by the state. The appraiser’s information is audited by the state.

Marion County Commission hired Magill nearly four years ago. She said when she arrived, there was no quality control of data entries. Magill established a policy that double-checks data entries, to assure accuracy in valuations.

“The first few years I was here, we found errors,” Magill said. “Some people were being over-taxed on out buildings.”

Documents were process for refunds and corrected notices were sent.

Magill said she has strived to provide prompt, courteous service to taxpayers.

“My policy in this office is we treat every property as if it was our own,” Magill said. “My goal has always been to make this office customer service oriented.”

It concerns Magill that Diepenbrock thought he was not treated fairly.

“If we’re doing something wrong, we can correct it. I want to know about it,” Magill said. “I want to provide a service that he and other taxpayers need and can use.”

Magill still wants to meet with Diepenbrock. Attempts were made to set up a meeting between Magill, Diepenbrock, and a county commissioner but Diepenbrock declined the invitation.

“I know I’ve made some people unhappy,” Magill said. “Gary’s comments didn’t just affect me, it affected my office. My staff is conscientious of people and situations.”

Employees Brian Frese and Debbie Weidenheimer stand behind their boss.

They also tried to assist Diepenbrock in the Aug. 20 incident.

Both Frese and Weidenheimer said they were surprised when Diepenbrock became upset.

“I don’t know why he got so upset,” Frese said.

Weidenheimer has a history with Magill, having worked for the appraiser when she was employed by Butler County.

“We try to be helpful to everyone who comes to the office,” Weidenheimer said.

Taxpayers often comment on how approachable and helpful staff is.

“Mr. Diepenbrock couldn’t give us sufficient information (regarding the silo) so we couldn’t give him sufficient information,” Weidenheimer said. “No one was reprimanded during the incident. It is disheartening to all of us.”

“If we came across wrong, I want to know. I need to talk to him to see what we did wrong,” Magill said.

“Cindy gives 150 percent,” Weidenheimer said. “She lives, eats, and breathes this job.”

Diepenbrock was contacted and declined to comment.

About the office

There tend to be numerous misconceptions about the appraiser’s office, Magill said. One of them is that the appraiser determines taxes and mill levies.

“The appraiser only sets the valuation base that is one component of the equation,” she said, regarding the process of determining taxes.

Kansas Department of taxation oversees appraisers’ offices in all 105 Kansas counties. That state office sets the rules and regulations.

“We are required to appraise most property at ‘market value’ based on sale transactions that take place in the county,” Magill said.

The state sets values for agriculture land and oil and gas properties. County taxing entities determine taxes that property owners pay to fund budgetary needs.

Since the beginning of Magill’s tenure with Marion County, verbal threats against her staff have been an issue.

“One of my field people was conducting a re-inspection when gunshots were fired at him while on the property,” she said.

Magill said she was threatened in a hearing that if anyone from the appraiser’s office entered that person’s property, he would turn his dogs on them.

Another staff member overheard a taxpayer say, in a public place, that if the appraiser’s office came on their property, the staff member would be shot.

Fewer hearings

According to Magill, in 2009, the number of hearings was the lowest in four years.

These hearings are allowed when a taxpayer disputes the value set by the appraiser’s office.

There were 267 hearings scheduled. Twelve were canceled, 184 had changes in values, and 71 were not changed.

“Some people didn’t show up for their hearings and the county still reviewed the information and made adjustments to several properties,” Magill said.

If a property owner shows documentation that supports a lower value, the appraiser’s office will adjust the value.

“Since we are required to place a value on property by Jan. 1, we have to review sales from the prior year,” Magill said.

The county does not have sufficient sales in a year to perform the multiple regression analysis that is required by mass appraisal standards, so the office uses three years of sales.

In April 2008, Magill said she did a comparison analysis with local realtors on property listings and the county’s appraised value.

Out of 32 listings from one real estate agent in the county, 20 were lower, one appraised value was at the listing price, and 11 appraisals were above listing prices.

Another real estate agent had 17 listings. Of those, the county appraised value was lower on 14 of them and three were above.

“The ones that were above could have a reason for the lower listing such as the county is not aware of the condition of the inside of the home or the reason for the sale does not meet statutory requirements of a market value sale,” Magill said.

Prior to Magill’s employment, the county’s annual report card that the commission received regarding the performance of the appraiser had deficiencies.

“Since my employment, the county has received a positive report every year,” she said.

Last modified Sept. 2, 2009

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