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Chittenden, Alfred K. (Alfred Knight), 1879-1930 / The taxation of forest lands in Wisconsin
(1911)

Methods of assessing timberlands,   pp. 42-44 PDF (803.2 KB)


Page 42


THE TAXATION OF FOREST LANDS IN WISCONSIN.
                METHODS OF ASSESSING TIMBERLANDS.
  Although the law very clearly states that "real property shall be,
valued by the assessor * * * at the full value which could ordi--
narily be obtained therefor at private sale," the assessment of timber-
lands in practically all of the northern counties is made in a most
arbitrary manner and with apparent disregard of the requirement
in the law just quoted. In only a few of the towns is there anything-
approaching true valuation in the assessment of this class of prop-
erty. Timnberland as a rule is not only greatly undervalued, but,,
moreover, the variableness of the ratios of assessed to true values in
many towns presents striking examples of inequality in assessment.
While in a few towns there has been an apparent attempt to follow a
given percentage or fraction of the true value, a close inspection
shows a pronounced variation from such percentage or fraction.
  The fixing of low values is not considered a violation of the law. Each
assessor is likely to take the general figures of his predecessor. He-
knows also that other assessors adopt a uniform value per acre for
all farm and cut-over land and apply it throughout the assessment
district, regardless of the land's advantage or disadvantage of loca-
tion. The assessor is elected to office by the people whose property
he is to assess. Then again he may be in the employ of one of the
largest property owners in the town, and in passing it should be said
that the administration of many of the towns is virtually in the con-
trol of the principal property owner therein, and that the assessor
is in the employ of such owner while not engaged in the performance
of his official duties. All of these conditions tend to encourage under-
valuation, and it is believed they are in no small measure responsible
for it.
  The law also requires that in determining the value of real estate
the assessor shall consider, as to each piece, the quantity of standing
timber. For an assessor to get a fair approximation of the true value
of such standing timber, he must be able to estimate with some de-
gree of accuracy and be familiar with timber values. Many of the
assessors do not have these qualifications, and those who do are
often prevented from exercising them, except in a limited way, for
the reason that the time allowed for making up the assessment roll
is not suffcient to enable an assessor to cover as he should more
than a part of his assessment district. It should be said, however,
that in a few towns they do attempt to see each timber descrip-
42


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