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Thousands question county property appraisals


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Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Homes in various Center Grove area additions. So many residents appealed the new value of their property that it might take all year to sort them out. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


More than three times as many property owners as last year disagreed with or questioned the new value the county said their property was worth, after the first statewide reassessment in a decade.

About 3,770 property owners across the county want assessors to take another look at the new value of their property or have a question about how it was calculated, Johnson County Assessor Mark Alexander said. He initially expected that 2 to 3 percent of property owners, or about 1,700 people, would appeal.

That estimate was more in line with how many appeals the county gets in an ordinary year, when assessments are updated based on sales data. This year, nearly all property values changed.

But until the calls came flooding in, Alexander hadn’t known exactly what to expect this year, when about half of property values in Johnson County increased after the first statewide reassessment since 2002.

The deadline to appeal the new value before this year’s tax bills has passed. The county is now calculating how the new values will affect tax bills. You will find out if your tax bill went up, down or stayed the same this spring.

Property owners still have a chance to disagree with the new value, but any changes likely would be made for future tax bills.

Alexander said the hope is to resolve all the appeals by the time property tax bills go out in the spring, but if property owners are disputing their reassessment, those could take the rest of the year to settle. The assessor’s office likely will have to schedule more hearings to handle all the appeals because of the increased volume of calls this year, Alexander said.

Appeals and questions about assessments are the top priority at the assessor’s office. Alexander assigned more employees to answering the initial flurry of calls, is having assessors focus full time on the appeals instead of estimating the value of new homes, which they typically would be doing now, and he is speaking with anyone who visits the office with questions so assessors are not interrupted while processing the appeals.

“It’s a big jump over just a trending year,” he said.

Since 2007, assessors have been updating the value of homes and other properties based on their market value, a process known as trending. The county compares the property’s value to what similar properties in the area sold for and makes increases or decreases accordingly.

But for this year’s taxes, all counties updated the values of every property, starting with new base amounts for features such as the roof. A new roof would increase the value of a property, and a decades-old roof would drag it down, Alexander said.

Nearly all of the 58,000 properties in the county had some change in value, as a result of new values assigned to everything from a basement to a brick exterior.

The state also updates farmland values every year and bumped the value of an acre of farmland from $1,500 to $1,650. Nearly 400 owners of agricultural land called to find out why their assessments had risen. That’s more than 10 times as many that called to appeal their property values last year, Alexander said.

Property owners had until Dec. 27 to file an appeal on the new value of their home, land or building. They can still appeal, but any change likely wouldn’t take effect until next year’s tax bills unless there was a factual error, such as an incorrect square footage number for a home.

This year, the county got more than 3,770 calls. Initially, assessor’s office employees just took down names and contact information of anyone who called. They may have wanted to appeal or just had questions, Alexander said.

The employees could have handled three or four calls an hour if they answered everyone’s question while they were on the phone. They didn’t have that luxury with such a high volume of calls, or more than three times as much as the 1,100 appeals received last year, Alexander said.

Not all the calls will result in appeals, Alexander said. About a third of callers likely will just have questions, mainly about why their property values went up, he said.

Assessors recently started getting back in touch with callers to talk about their concerns with the original assessment. If the resident just wants to know why the assessment went up, the assessor will explain that all property values changed as a result of the new base values.

If they object to the new assessment, property owners should be ready to answer a number of questions, such as whether they’ve ever had termites, Alexander said. Assessors need to determine if any factors would diminish the property’s value.

The assessors would then come up with a new value, and the assessment could either go up, go down or stay the same, he said.

If the property owner agrees to the new assessment, a three-member board will approve it at a monthly meeting. An owner who objects to the new assessment can appeal to the board, and Alexander expects a backlog of those disputed reassessments to run through the end of the year.

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