Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Assessment Commissioner Keeps His Job

Once expected to face a close vote, Steve Miner gets council approval on 13-2 vote.

By - Jul 28th, 2020 05:11 pm
Steve Miner. Image from City of Milwaukee - City Channel.

Steve Miner. Image from City of Milwaukee – City Channel.

On July 20th Assessment Commissioner Steve Miner‘s future with the city seemed to be in doubt. Miner’s reappointment stalled before the Common Council’s Judiciary & Legislation Committee on a 2-2-1 vote. He’s had the job since 2015.

The committee met again Tuesday morning before the full Common Council was set to meet, a move which gave Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd a chance to weigh in today after meeting with Miner. She had abstained, pending the meeting, last week.

The committee voted again, with Dodd in favor of reappointing Miner. “We know that everyone is being questioned when it comes to thinking about the African American community,” said Dodd of the council’s move to hold all cabinet appointments. She thanked him for working to making a difference within his department and within the community with regards to racial equity.

The committee voted 3-2 to advance Miner’s reappointment with council members Robert Bauman and Michael Murphy in opposition.

When it came to the full council about an hour later Bauman and Murphy were the only no votes. His reappointment passed on a 13-2 vote. Miner will serve at Mayor Tom Barrett‘s pleasure for four years.

Why was he in hot water to begin with? Neither Murphy, nor Bauman explained their no votes during the three meetings.

But Murphy’s line of questioning last week, which was repeated this week, hints at why.

Residential property assessments, which under state guidance are supposed to reflect pre-pandemic values on January 1st, are up an average 11.95 percent across the city. Miner couldn’t produce an exact count of the number of appeals filed as a result, even though they were due in May.

“At this point we don’t have a formal count on the number of appeals because we are still entering the data,” said Miner on the 20th. He estimated the number to be at least 3,000, a total which would be almost double the 1,571 filed in 2019.

“You haven’t been able to count that many?” asked Murphy.

“We have a team of about six to eight people entering the data. It hasn’t been finished yet,” said Miner.

Murphy asked again on Tuesday morning, and it turned out Miner’s estimate of 3,000 was at least 33 percent short.

As of July 27th, Miner said there have been 4,651 appeals filed from 7,533 requested forms. More will be coming.

“Many of those are unfinished because we are in the process of communicating with the property owners,” said Miner. “We are making sure the forms have signature, we are making sure they have an opinion of value.” The process needs to be completed by early October or the appeals will automatically go to the Board of Review, something Miner said rarely happens.

But the upset council members Miner faced in May, when he said the increases were entirely driven by comparable sales and market data, seemed to have changed their views on Tuesday.

Ald. Mark Borkowski, citing the example of a home that jumped by $195,000 in assessed value, pledged to vote against Miner in May, but voted for him on Tuesday.

Ald. Nik Kovac in May said the assessment process was using too many variables and as a result producing poor results. “I am trying to help you to figure out where it went wrong,” said Kovac, citing the example of nearly identical condominiums in the same building with divergent changes. He voted for Miner.

Murphy and Ald. Milele A. Coggs expressed frustration in May that the process was entirely on paper. Miner last week said progress was being made on software updates. Coggs voted for Miner.

The Assessor’s Office has a budget of $4.3 million and authorization for 59 full-time equivalent employees according to the 2020 city budget.

Miner wasn’t the only cabinet member to be reappointed with at least one no vote. Bauman was the lone no vote on the reappointment of Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik. Ald. Khalif Rainey was the lone no vote on Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske. Neither explained their vote at council, but both have been critical of the responsiveness of the commissioners at prior committee meetings.

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Related Legislation: File 200281

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