BY O.J. EARLY
The number of county residents and business owners formally protesting recently appraised property values has been cut in half since the last round of reappraisals in 2008, Property Assessor Chuck Jeffers said this week.
"Five years ago it was busy," said Jeffers. "People were lined up out the doors."
State law mandates property reappraisals every four-to-six years on a regular cycle. Greene County operates on a five-year cycle.
Overall property values in Greene County, including all assessed residential, commercial and agricultural properties, decreased by nearly 10 percent, Jeffers said.
The vast majority of residential property decreased in value, he added.
"This cycle was very strange," said Jeffers, who has participated in six property reappraisals in three different counties.
The last reappraisal of residential, commercial and agricultural property was in 2008, one year before the "Great Recession" when property values plummeted, Jeffers said.
"We've been too high on a lot of those properties," he said, of the five years since the last appraisal.
"Some of the commercial [property] held its own, and some of the commercial went up," he said.
In 2008, the county property assessor's office warned the Division of Property Assessments (DPA) that many local homes were being appraised at too high a value, Jeffers said.
"We could see the handwriting on the wall," Jeffers said. "They [DPA] didn't necessarily disagree with us, but they have to go by the numbers."
Marty and Linda Parham, of Mosheim, are typical of the many Greene Countians who saw their residential property appraisal decrease from 2008 to 2013.
"It makes sense for values to have dropped," Linda Parham said. "Probably the people that were most upset are the ones wanting to sell."
The Parham's property value dropped from $261,900 in 2008 to $230,500 in 2013. They did not appeal their reappraisal.
The County Board of Equalization, a five-member panel that meets the first two weeks of every June, heard 111 appeals from county residents and business owners, Jeffers said.
The same board heard more than more than 220 appeals in 2008.
In early April, the assessor's office held an informal hearing, giving county residents the chance to call or visit the assessor's office and ask questions about their appraisal.
"We had about 4,000 calls or better," said Jeffers, explaining that his office used a new state-mandated computer system for this round of appraisals. "It printed out the notices a little different, and that may have confused some people."
He added: "Most of those, we could listen to their appeal. We did a lot of work that way."
Appellates still not satisfied with their appraisal and who went before the County Board of Equalization have the opportunity in the fall to go before the Assessment of Appeals Commission, which is comprised of judges from across the state.
TAX RATE WILL RISE
As a result of overall property values dropping in Greene County, the tax rate will rise, Jeffers said.
He was quick to point out, however, that a higher tax rate doesn't necessarily mean citizens will pay higher taxes.
"Just because they lowered their value, it doesn't mean they are going to pay more taxes," he said.
The tax rate has not been set yet. The County Commission is expected to do so in the coming weeks, Jeffers said.
"We don't set the budget. We don't set the tax rate. We value the property," Jeffers said. "It's a hard job."