12/21/09 — Tax Office gets set for revaluation

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Tax Office gets set for revaluation

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 21, 2009 1:46 PM

Santa isn't the only person busy checking his list twice. Employees in the Wayne County Tax Office are doing the same as they continue preliminary work to revalue property in the county.

Tax Administrator David Ward joked that he doesn't have crystal ball to call on, but rather that his office relies on technology, mapping and in-person looks at the county's some 63,000 parcels of property.

"It (revaluation) is a two-prong process. Our job is to put a market value on the house and that is what we are doing right now. The taxing part comes in when commissioners set the (tax) rate," Ward said.

Law requires that the value be set at 100 percent market value of the property, Ward explained.

Normally revaluations are conducted every eight years. Some counties have gone to a four-year revaluation schedule. Most of them are in more urbanized or in vacation areas, Ward said.

"Over the past 12 to 15 years, a lot of those properties have gone up and up and up," Ward said. "Now what happened with the economy things are leveling off, or even in some locations dropping, but again we have to look at sales and what property is selling for in a given area or neighborhood and that is how we have got to try to base our schedule of values to apply."

It would be up to commissioners to decide to change the revaluation cycle, he said.

"We have had several people come in since we sent the bills out," assistant tax administrator Alan Lumpkin said. "A lot of them mention, 'What are you doing about my values?' They listen to the national news and the economy is down 15 percent. They think their house should be down 15 percent. That is the national level and that is really not the case here in Wayne County.

"No. 1, our values go back to 2003. Even if they did drop some, you still haven't gotten back to 2003 values. Two, what we have seen just in our sales, I don't see values dropping. Are houses on the market longer? Yes. The high-end houses, the $300,000 $400,000 houses are probably suffering more than your average one. So Wayne County has been spared a lot. We have suffered, too, but not as bad as other stories that I have heard."

The county can't raise or lower the values just because it wants to, once they are locked in, he said.

When it comes to property values, Lumpkin said he tells people to educate themselves.

"Look at that Sunday paper that has all of those real estate ads," he said. "You know what your house is, 2,000-square-foot brick ranch, built in whatever year. Look at some of those things and see what they are selling for. Educate yourself because a lot of people have no idea what their property is worth. You'd be surprised."

It normally takes up to 18 to 24 months to conduct a revaluation, Ward said.

"We are working on checking properties, seeing if there have been any changes," Ward said. "Technically, everybody who goes to build something, a new house of course, they go to make an addition to the house, remodel, add on some outbuildings then they are supposed to report that to us. Anything you have done say during 2008 you should report it to us in January 2009.

"It doesn't always happen, but they are supposed to get a building permit. We also get copies of those building permits. Inevitably things are not reported and we try to check for things like that that might have been missed. We want to make sure the data is current."

Repair and maintenance costs such as paint, new shingles or heating/cooling system, items that could be called "normal repair" or maintenance do not apply, he said.

"We don't pick up anything on that," Lumpkin said. "We know you have to do that every so often. It does affect the market value of the property technically because you put a new roof on. However, we don't add it to your property value."

Ward said much of the work now is updating data to ensure it is as accurate as possible.

"We have to come up with a tentative schedule of values, plug those numbers in the system and apply it to data have. We take it and go back into field and that is when we have to look at details of the house. Then we have to make final adjustments on that last review," Lumpkin said.

That process will continue through 2010

Lumpkin said the county uses a cost-based use system that is used across the country.

"It gives costs for all kinds of structures, residential, commercial use," he said. "We use it as a basis. We take it and compare it against actual sales of property and come up with a hybrid-type schedule.

"It all boils down to market value, marketability of that property and what that property will sell for Jan. 1, 2011. That is what people have a tendency not to want to hear. They think there is a difference between tax value and market value and there is in most case because of time, but on that date, Jan. 1, 2011, they should be the same. That is our goal, to get as close to that as possible for all of the properties in the county."

The county is currently in the process of doing mass appraisals to get those values as close possible, he said.

"We are not going to get everyone one of them 100 percent right. I think last time we came in at 99 some percent," he said.

The county does not have the luxury of a bank appraiser who can spend three days on a parcel, he said. Rather, the county appraisers, who are looking at the properties now, do so from the road, he said.

"We will try to look at everything," he said.

The goal is to have notices of the new values out to public by February 2011.

Attached to back of the value notification will be paperwork for an informal appeal.

"You just can't send it in and say it is too high, you have give us a recent appraisal, information about the property that we would know about like the interior, something wrong with the interior that we would not have seen," Lumpkin said. "That is when you tell us that information and that is what that sheet is for.