11/01/10 — Tax chief: Wait for spring mailing

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Tax chief: Wait for spring mailing

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 1, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County's proposed schedules of real property values are nothing more than base cost figures and cannot be used by themselves to determine the tax value of any specific piece of property, county tax officials say.

In other words, the schedules comprise a manual that gives appraisers a starting point as to how to value a home, officials said.

While values have increased since the 2003 countywide property revaluation, it will be months before a new countywide growth average will be available.

For example, the current value for a single-family home during the 2003 revaluation is $55 per square foot. It will increase to $70 under the new schedule.

And people need to realize that many other factors come into play when property is appraised such as its age and condition as well as its location.

Location is also an important factor when land, which is valued separately from houses and other structures, is appraised. Swamp land wouldn't be valued as highly as prime real estate locations, tax officials said.

"What people need to look at, what they need to be concerned about and look at is when they get their revaluation notice next spring," county Tax Administrator David Ward said. "Take an educated look at it and say, 'OK. Is this the market value on what my property is worth on the market?' That is the bottom line."

People cannot take the square footage of their house and multiply it by the (per-square-foot) figure and determine its value, he said.

The schedules will be the subject of a Tuesday morning public hearing before Wayne County commissioners. The hearing will get under way at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' boardroom on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex. An agenda briefing will begin at 8 a.m. followed by the board meeting at 9 a.m.

Copies of the schedules are available for public inspection in the county tax office on the first floor of the courthouse annex.

However, the public needs to remember that looking at the values will not give them the value of their property, Ward said.

"This is actually cost," assistant tax administrator Alan Lumpkin said. "These numbers you are talking about are cost figures -- the per-square-foot prices. That is what we load into our computers as our base values. Once the costs are in there, then in the field is when we do our actual appraisals as far as neighborhood adjustments.

"These are cost. You go to the builders supply place, go to contractors, these are what the raw materials cost to build this property."

Once appraisers look at a property, the figures might be up, down or in the middle, Lumpkin said.

Even a 70-year-old house has to be "reconstructed" as brand new, Lumpkin said.

"Then it depreciates with age," he said. "Then we have market analysis. Has it been remodeled, things like that. Costs have gone up from 2003 to 2011. Everything has gone up."

The public does not understand that is how the process works, Ward said.

"They think you have a schedule of values you can look at that and get the value of my property," Ward said. "It does not work that way. You will actually get the value when we send the notices next spring. That is when we will notify you what we think the market value is."

Lumpkin suggests that property owners "do their homework" by educating themselves about the value of their property before they receive their new valuation in the spring.

They should do so by examining real estate ads and looking at how much homes have sold for in their community.

"Is it comparable to what I have it insured for?" he said.

Also, people need to remember that the values are based on the county's economy and costs and not on the economy in other parts of the state or country, he said.

Once property owners have done that, they can compare what they think the value should be and what the county has it appraised for, he said.

"If it is way out of whack then obviously something is wrong," Lumpkin said.

That is when the county can flesh out any problems, he said.

"We should be pretty close," he said. "If we have value of $200,000, and they had an appraisal and it came back as $125,000, then obviously something is wrong. If it is just a couple thousand dollars, either way up or down, then we have done a good job."

The notices will include the paperwork to file an informal appeal of the value.

If the tax office denies that appeal, then the property owner can appeal to county commissioners sitting as the Board of Equalization and Review.

Also, people need to remember that the values do not dictate the county tax rate that is set by county commissioners.

"We cannot tell you what your tax bill will be next year until (the county commissioners) set the tax rate," Lumpkin said. "The rate is the last piece of the puzzle. The assumption is that everybody is going to pay more money -- well, you don't know.

"Your value may go up, but the (tax) rate may come down so you may be paying about the same. You just don't know. If you live in a depressed area where values may have gone down a little bit you may, if the (tax) rate goes down, pay a little less."

The revaluation process that is required every eight years has been ongoing for over a year. Appraisers are working in the county now and revaluation notices will be mailed in late March or early April.