Thursday, August 16, 2012
Assessor reports on appraisals
By SUE WATSON
Tax assessor Juanita Dillard recently reported to the board of supervisors that the county is in another cycle of reappraisal of real property values. The last appraisal was conducted in 2008.
With supervisors asking questions why some appraisals were up and others were not, Dillard said the state worked with the county to increase land values over a four-year appraisal period to help counties that could not do an entire reappraisal in one year.
She said the incremental appraisals would keep property owners from being in such a shock at a steep rise in valuation. In 2008, property owners were stunned by a steep rise in valuation, Dillard said, since the appraisal was a year late and should have taken place in 2007, the last year of assessor Ronnie Johnson’s term.
On the other hand, the building index declined slightly from 1.36 to 1.34, she said. That means people won’t take a hit on structure appraisals, while some will see increases in land appraisals if they are in the 25 percent pool of properties that are up for reappraisal this year.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said he disagrees with some lot appraisals in Potts Camp.
“There’s not a lot of lots in Potts Camp worth $60,000,” he said. “They would be in Jackson or Oxford.”
He said property appraisals should be left up to the appraisers, not the state, to determine land prices. He said people were having to pay higher taxes when their land is not worth what it is appraised for. Bennett blamed lawmakers in Jackson who make the rules tax assessors have to follow.
Dillard said her lot was appraised more this time, as well. She also lives in Potts Camp.
Bennett said the big hit in 2008 could be explained by the county being a year late in doing the required appraisal.
Dillard said over the last four years the tax assessor’s office has tried to raise land values gradually to what the state requires so property owners would not be shocked.
Owners of real property have until the first Monday in September to appeal their appraisals, but should have already contacted the tax assessor’s office by August 6, she said. If the tax assessor cannot satisfy a property owner’s appeal, the matter is settled by the board of supervisors, she said.
Supervisor Keith Taylor reported one of his constituents saw a $7,000 increase over the last appraisal and wanted to know why since market values are down.
Dillard said building indexes have fallen but that land values are not in line yet to where the state said they should be. If she does not follow the state guidelines, the state can audit the entire county’s real property values.
Taylor explained that when land values go up, constituents aim their complaints at the board of supervisors who sometimes have to raise taxes.
“This board has been real good about not raising taxes,” he said. “The state has a formula to go by (for appraisals), not supervisors.”
Dillard advised that her office tries to handle all appeals but that the last resort when a citizen and the tax assessor’s office cannot see eye to eye is the board of supervisors.
Appeals before the board of supervisors are set for August 20 after the regular board of supervisors’ meeting.
Dillard also advised the board that a computer problem had figured some properties inaccurately. The problems were isolated to rural parcels of 20 acres or less that are outside subdivisions or city limits, she said. (For more, see the ad in Section 3, on Page 8).
“I don’t foresee another mailout of cards,” she said.
Bennett explained that the board of supervisors did not have to raise taxes up to year 2008 because of growth in the county valuation. To avoid raising taxes since then, the board has instituted a three percent cut almost every year in expenditures, he said, all in the face of higher prices for materials, goods, and fuel.
“Marshall County (board of supervisors) has cut about all they can cut without raising taxes,” Bennett lamented. “It is something we’re going to have to look at. I don’t see how Marshall County can sit here without raising taxes. And times are tough for everybody. This board has done everything it can – run old equipment. The sheriff needs new cars. It’s going to be tough.”
Supervisor George Zinn III asked Dillard if she has any idea what the county valuation will be. The board is holding budget hearings and needs to know what the mill will be worth, he said.
Dillard said she thinks the valuation will probably be close to what it was last year.
Deputy tax assessor Casey Hillmer explained that he checks on new building and improvements on 25 percent of the properties each year. The properties are valued under the same rules, but those who are found to not be paying the rate the state requires will be reappraised, he said.
Dillard explained that all properties are appraised each year, but one quarter of the county is looked at for reappraisal by Hillmer and that the remaining 75 percent is still appraised but not audited by the state in that year.
“The reason we set a time for appeals is, if we are wrong, we can fix it,” he said.
Taylor said he just wants to understand the process so he can explain it to his constituents, not to be at cross purposes with the tax assessor’s office.
Hillmer said the assessor’s office is audited by the state to see if it is following the state guidelines.
“We were warned we would be audited heavily, if we do not follow state requirements,” he said.
He said the tax assessor’s office goes by the value of homes in subdivisions to get a market estimate since the state does not require a property owner to disclose what they sell a property for.
Bennett said it would be better if all reappraisals took place in one year.
Hillmer said the county would have to hire a lot of appraisers to do the reappraisal all in one year.
He has to file a plan with the state to reappraise 25 percent of the property each year that will be audited by the state, he said. In four years, the entire county would have been reappraised - one quarter each year.
“I’m glad it’s y’alls’ headache instead of mine,” Bennett said. “You are doing a great job over there.”
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