Hendricks’ Home Is Reassessed
Assessment and taxes on home have been tripled in response to our story.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel buried the lead.
The newspaper did a “Watchdog” report today jumping on Urban Milwaukee’s stories showing the huge home of billionaire Diane Hendricks was under-assessed and a follow-up story we did with the Town of Rock lawyers admitting mistakes were made, that Hendricks had refused entry to an assessor and the assessment would now be revisited.
Considering that Hendricks is the second-richest self-made woman in America, and that “she’s been paying a fraction of the property taxes that would typically be associated with a sprawling mansion such as hers,” as the JS story notes, you might think this would have been a banner headline story.
Nope. The newspaper buried the story under the wonky headline, “When property owners shut door on tax assessors, should they be able to appeal?” and makes no mention of Hendricks until 18 paragraphs into the story, on the jump page in the print edition.
From there we meander, finally, to Hendricks. Why bury this huge story? Perhaps because that approach allows the newspaper to not credit Urban Milwaukee until graph 23 in the story, deep into the jump page, rather than on the newspaper’s front page, where the story ran on the top of the fold. (The newspaper also didn’t credit reporter Michael Horne, whose dogged reporting broke the story.) In short, it makes this look like a JS story. An added benefit: this approach buried a negative story about a prominent donor to Republicans, thus helping head off inevitable complaints from the paper’s many Republican readers.
The story by JS reporters Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe mostly confirmed Urban Milwaukee’s reporting that Hendricks’ huge mansion was under-assessed as a 1,663-square-foot home and the assessor hadn’t been allowed to visit the property. But the Journal Sentinel was able to get Accurate Appraisal, the private company which handles assessments for the town (and which declined to answer any queries from Urban Milwaukee), to reveal they weren’t aware that Hendricks had built a newer, 8,500-square-foot home and had never seen the building permits taken out when the home was built.
The JS makes clear that the reconsideration of the assessment that Town of Rock lawyers promised Urban Milwaukee has now taken place.
Addie Ebert, Accurate Appraisal’s assessor for the town, told the newspaper that Hendricks met her and Accurate co-owner Jim Danielson, “and gave them a limited tour of the compound. They rode around the property in a utility vehicle, but at no time were they brought to the mansion.
“’They weren’t bringing us anywhere near it,’ Ebert said.”
“However, she said, they could see the house was not the two-bedroom ranch Accurate had recorded in its files.”
As for being allowed to tour the home, “We knew it wasn’t going to happen,” Ebert said. “It was pretty apparent.”
“Some time after the tour, Ebert said she contacted Hendricks’ representative again and asked for access to the mansion. She was told it wouldn’t happen for security reasons.
“They did eventually supply us with the data (on the home)’ Ebert said.”
As a result the home’s assessment nearly tripled, going from $445,700 last year to $1,205,500 this year, the paper reported.
Reporter Michael Horne estimates the reassessment will increase Hendricks annual property tax bill by $12,204. Depending on when the new home was finished — in 2011 or 2012 — she may have underpaid by as much as $55,000 or more.
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