Homeowners dispute appraisals

Since learning that the value of their home, land or business changed last year, nearly 700 property owners have told the county they don’t agree with the adjusted amount.

More than 100 are waiting on a response, and nearly 300 have decided to take their case to the county appeals board.

Last year, more than half of all property values changed.

Those amounts are being used to calculate this year’s property taxes. About half that changed went up, and the other half went down.

The changes were due to multiple factors, including higher sales prices of similar properties and an increase in the base value of property, which is set by the state, Assessor Mark Alexander said.

If you are still waiting on your appeal to be resolved, the county is moving through them, with about 100 who have not yet been contacted by appraisers, he said.

Alexander also said he expects to get more questions from property owners once tax bills are sent this spring, he said.

The first round of questions came after property owners got a notice in the mail this fall that their property value had changed. If they did not appeal then, they won’t be able to appeal their value this year.

But if they did not get a notice or did not already appeal, then they can still file one within 45 days of getting their tax bill this spring, Alexander said.

But he said he is pleasantly surprised any year where questions and appeals are below 1,000.

In past years, thousands of property owners filed appeals, especially when the state changed the way counties value properties, requiring them to be compared to market value.

But the county has been updating properties every year for nearly a decade, and taxpayers have gotten used to it, which is one reason for fewer appeals, Alexander said.

The most common question is from property owners wanting to know why their property value increased.

The most common reason is because similar properties sold for a higher price, Alexander said.

And in some cases, that increase may be more significant, especially if the county didn’t have enough similar sales previously to adjust the price gradually, he said.

The county can only adjust prices to market value if enough sales happened to support the new value, Alexander said. So, if similar homes sold for a higher price in the last few years, but the county didn’t have enough to show proof, the amount wouldn’t have changed.

And if multiple homes sold last year that are similar to yours, and that amount had continued to rise from the past, then this year could be the first time your property value would reflect the improved real estate market, Alexander said.

“We are not saying it went up 15 percent in one year,” he said.

“It likely occurred over time, but we didn’t have enough sales in past years to make the adjustment.”

That issue has led to some questions this year, he said.

Sometimes property owners just want an explanation of why their value changed, and are satisfied after talking with a county appraiser. Often, that discussion will include some sort of proposal from the county, such as lowering the amount or explaining why it should stay the same, Alexander said.

But in other cases, the property owner decides to take his or her case to the county appeals board. That board meets a couple times a month and will consider both sides of the appeal — the county and the property owner.

If the property owner still isn’t satisfied, they can appeal to the state, but that is rare and typically only happens with larger commercial or industrial properties, Alexander said.

By the numbers

Here is a look at the number of property owners who questioned the value the county assigned to their property for this year’s tax bills:

Total: 685

Pending: 126

Formally appealed: 279

Of those who questioned their property’s value:

28 agricultural

19 industrial

84 commercial

523 single family homes

31 multifamily homes

And the properties were located in:

Bargersville: 36

Edinburgh: 10

Franklin: 136

Greenwood: 385

Needham: 1

New Whiteland: 30

Nineveh: 18

Trafalgar: 18

Whiteland: 51

SOURCE: Johnson County Assessor’s Office

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.