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Hundreds awaiting appeals on appraisals

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For two years Eric Sample has been paying a higher tax bill than he thinks he should.

Sample disagreed with the value the county decided his home was worth in 2012. He called to complain, started the appeal process and is still waiting for a resolution. Now, two years’ worth of tax bills later, Sample is living on a fixed income from his retirement and still waiting for his appeal to be resolved.

Sample was one of nearly 4,000 property owners who filed an appeal over the value of property after a countywide reassessment in 2012. He thinks his assessment should be closer to the value of his neighbors’ homes; but until his appeal is resolved, he will continue paying taxes on what the county deemed his home was worth.

As of this week, 379 property owners, or fewer than 10 percent of the original number, are waiting for a resolution of their appeals, according to the county assessor’s office. The countywide reassessment is completed every 10 years and changes a majority of property values, which typically causes a large volume of appeals. The assessor’s office does not have the ability to hire extra staff, so the extra appeals take longer to resolve, Assessor Mark Alexander said.

The four certified appraisers will finish appraisals of structures built in 2013 by Tuesday, and they will immediately shift to working on the remaining appeals from 2012, Alexander said.

Once those appeals have been resolved, there are plenty more waiting. There were 1,317 appeals filed this year by property owners, with only 25 resolved so far, Alexander said. Taxpayers can appeal the assessed value of their property if they feel it is inaccurate. The county then will look at the details of the assessment to begin the appeal process.

Appeals from the countywide reassessment ideally will be finished by the summer, Alexander said, and he hopes to have the appeals from this year completed by early November.

Sample expected his property value to increase after building a 2,136-square-foot home on a five-acre lot in the Morgantown area in 2009. But he didn’t expect the increases that came after that. Sample’s property was appraised at $158,400 in 2010, and that value increased by less than 1 percent the following year. The countywide reassessment increased Sample’s property value by 15.2 percent, and it went up another 3.2 percent last year.

He filed appeals for both the 2012 and 2013 assessments. He said his neighbors have nicer homes, but their homes were assessed for less than his.

“They started out fairly reasonable, but they just keep going up and up,” Sample said. “No one can tell us why they’re going up.”

While he waits for his appeal to be resolved, Sample has no choice but to pay his property tax bill each time its due. Living on a fixed income as a retiree, he’s forced to watch what he spends on items that aren’t a necessity because he didn’t expect his taxes to be as high as they are.

Sample chose to appeal the assessment, but he said he did not expect it would take so long to resolve.

In the next few months he will first hear from one of four certified appraisers, who will review his appeal and property information and decide if his property value should be lowered or remain the same. If Sample disagrees with the appraiser’s decision, the appeal goes to the property tax assessment board of appeals. Sample would be given 20 minutes to present his case to the three-member board, which meets twice a month, who will decide whether or not to lower the assessed value of the property.

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