05/26/11 — Revaluation notices are in the mail

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Revaluation notices are in the mail

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 26, 2011 1:46 PM

Property revaluation notices are in the mail, and Wayne County property owners shouldn't be surprised to learn that overall the values have increased countywide.

The biggest change was seen in the northern part of the county, where more growth has occurred since the last state-mandated revaluation in 2003.

Approximately 60,000 notices were mailed out by the county late Tuesday.

The notice is not a bill and is not a tax rate, Wayne County Tax Administrator David Ward said. County commissioners will determine the tax rate when they adopt a county budget.

"(Property values) probably will be a mixture," Ward said. "I don't know if it is the majority or not, but a lot of the values are going to go up. Some are going to increase.

"Some are going to be be a little stagnant. Some areas, depending on where it is, you may have some dropping a little, but I don't know that it is going to be a lot."

The tax office continues to work to determine a countywide average that should be available within the next few weeks, Ward said. The county tax office has a few remaining tasks to complete before the average and total value is available, he said.

"The problem is we are still taking applications for senior citizens, veterans, folks who can apply and, if they meet the qualifications, can pay on a reduced value," he said. "We have to by law take those applications up until June 1.

"Plus now that we got the notices out any informal appeals that we get we are obviously going to look at those and work those. Any adjustments we may make, some we won't make because we feel like we have a good value on them."

The exemption forms are available at the tax office and the county's website.

There are several criteria that senior citizens, 65 or older, must meet to qualify for an exemption.

"You have to own and occupy (the house) and all monies that you receive -- I hate to call it income because you have to include all things such as retirement, Social Security, veteran's benefits -- everything you received cannot, all totaled up for the pervious year like you are applying for 2010-2011, cannot exceed $27,100," Ward said.

People who qualify receive either $25,000 off in value or one-half the value of the property.

The number of applications increases every year since the threshold amount is normally adjusted upwards on an annual basis based on the cost of living. It has been "fairly stagnant" for the past couple of years, Ward said.

However, any change means there are more people who potentially can qualify, assistant Tax Administrator Alan Lumpkin said.

So far, several hundred applications have been sent out, Ward said.

As for the appeals, about two-thirds of the bottom of the notice page is the informal appeal form.

"If you feel like the value that we have placed on it is higher than market value effective 2011, then you need to complete that form and give us any additional information and get that mailed back into us within 30 days," Ward said. "Once you do that, we will be working those informal appeals. As soon as we could get them worked, we will notify the property owner as to whether or not we feel it merits an adjustment or if we have a good value on it and no change."

People who still challenge the value can appeal to the county commissioners sitting as the Board of Equalization and Review. If they are still unhappy, the value can be appealed to the state Property Tax Commission and finally the state Court of Appeals.

The form asks for specific information that the tax office might not be aware of since the valuations are based on an external view of the property and not the interior that may have some problems, Ward said.

"If you live in a depressed area and your house is in a state of disrepair something like that is not going to increase," said Lumpkin. "A general house in average condition that has been maintained in Wayne County should see an increase. The market drives that."

Lumpkin said he had seen some sales, but wasn't sure if they are an indication that the housing market is beginning to recover. Houses have continued to sell in the county, he said. The difference is that they have remained on the market longer before selling.

People want to talk about a percentage increase, but that number is not relevant to what the tax office is doing now, Lumpkin said.

"What we are looking at is market value as of (Jan. 1) 2011," he said. "It has nothing to do with how much it was last year or how much it was eight years ago (at the last revaluation). Everybody likes to compare, but really it is across the board right now. It is based on where you are and what you have got."

However, speaking of residential growth and values, northern Wayne County, "is the going spot right now," Lumpkin said.

"Some of the subdivisions up there increased more than some of the subdivisions in southern Wayne County," he said. "That has been the case for the last probably 10 to 15 years. The last revaluation reflected the same thing. Basically for residential purposes, obviously the growth was up in the northern part of the county. Where people want to go is going to drive the price up more than other places."

Lumpkin said he had not really known what to expect prior to the start of revaluation, but that he had not been surprised by the outcome.

People need to educate themselves about the value of their property, he said. They can do so by looking at nearby similar properties and what they sell for and by reading real estate ads in the newspaper.

"There were really no big surprises," he said. "From 1995 to 2003 it was a booming time. We knew that this time from 2003 to 2007 everything was going good, but that we hit a plateau and sort of leveled off and in some cases went back down. So we knew that we had that highs and lows between 2003 and now.

"However, I felt overall there would be an increase, not as substantial as the increase from '95 to '03 obviously. It is about what we thought it would be."

The problem now is that when people look at the national news that everything is "gloom and doom and everything is down," Lumpkin said.

"But we are looking at Wayne County -- what's happened from 2003 to 2011," Lumpkin said. "From '03 to '07 we were booming still and everything went up, up, up. Those values have hit a plateau or possibly come down a little bit, but they have not gotten back to the '03 values. So yes, from '03 to 2011, overall there is an increase."

People want to look at and compare last year's bill with the current notice, he said. However, the value change is not a one-year change, it is an eight-year one, since the last revaluation was in 2003.

There have been highs and lows over the past eight years, but the highs have outweighed the lows, Lumpkin said.

"I am talking Wayne County strictly," he said. "It is not that we don't care, but for what we do here what is happening in California, Florida or anywhere else is irrelevant to what we are doing in our county."

Lumpkin said he tells people that the tax office does not set values, it reflects what the market is doing.

"People out there who buy the property set the values," he said. "So if there is a bigger demand in the northern end of the county for residential then obviously the prices will reflect that."