Minneapolis City Assessor Patrick Todd defended the accuracy of his office’s mass-appraisal of properties to the City Council Thursday, following a report showing more than 1,000 people appealed successfully to lower their valuations.

Responding to questions from council members, Todd said his office relies on statistically viable methods to estimate property values in Minneapolis, though he acknowledged that the software is dated and does not help taxpayers understand the city’s calculations.

“I wouldn’t say that our software is faulty at all,” said Todd. “It’s just not providing the transparency and the reporting tools that other jurisdictions are providing. I have an incredible amount of faith in the actual numbers.”

Todd delivered a report to the council showing the outcome of 1,400 appeals, a stark rise from last year driven by concerns that higher values could translate to larger property tax bills in the future. The tax assessors and appeals board approved 1,144, or 82 percent, of those who filed formal objections.

Council Member Linea Palmisano, whose ward includes the area of south Minneapolis that saw the most appeals, asked how the city could improve the process in the future.

“I worry about the longtime homeowners, people aging in place across our city, that maybe could have gotten a reduction if only they had appealed,” Palmisano told Todd. “Do you think there might be a problem with the modeling process?”

“To answer that question, at this point in time, I would say, no,” replied Todd.

At the end of every year, Todd said, the Department of Revenue does its own analysis of home sales and compares it to the city’s appraisals, and they have been “rock solid” in the past.

He said there will be “pockets” of inaccuracies, but “that’s really what the appeals process is about.”

Transparency questions

Todd has attributed the rise in appeals this year to soaring home values brought on by a hot real estate market, and more homeowners reacting to how quickly that is driving up their valuations. He reiterated Thursday that property taxes are more complicated than people realize, and a rise in estimated property value does not necessarily translate to higher taxes.

Palmisano said she’s heard frustrations from constituents who believe the city did not allow them to properly prepare for the appeal by giving them the assessor’s report in advance. She questioned whether the criteria the city uses to conduct the mass appraisals is available to taxpayers.

“That would be a no,” Todd said.

Council Member Cam Gordon also questioned whether Minneapolis’ technology was dated, and whether other cities had implemented more user-friendly software.

Todd said the city’s current software is about 18 years old and predates consumer-friendly features for property owners to easily learn more about their estimates. However, the City Assessor’s Office will request funding for an updated model that will allow Minneapolis property owners to go online and explore the math behind their valuations, he said.