The Bryan County Tax Assessor’s Office and Board of Equalization are in agreement that there needs to be a reevaluation of property values in 2009.
"Real estate has been a very speculative market for the past few years. I think the trend is downward, but to what extent – I don’t know," Board of Equalization Chairman Owen Thayer said. "I think most taxpayers would like to know the answer to that question."
Based on appeals the BOE has seen, Thayer said the seemingly downward trend of property values needs to be reinforced with a reval, last done in 2006.
"In order to be fair, I think it’s necessary so everyone will understand what the trend has been," he said.
Tax Assessor Chief Appraiser Dan Rollf agreed. He said the need for a reval comes from the fact that too many homes are being sold under county appraised values. But County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said this comes as a surprise.
"We’ve got a conflicting report, because a couple months ago, Dan said that a reval wouldn’t be necessary this year," Burnsed said.
County Administrator Phil Jones said the county cannot direct the Assessors Office, other than appointing Board of Assessors members and approving the department’s annual budget.
"I talked to Dan earlier this week and he expressed concern with land values and stated the need to establish some revised methodology for establishing land values and then applying that methodology – in essence that would be a reevaluation of land," Jones said.
In 2007, 1,509 properties changed ownership in Bryan County. Of those, 1,051 homes were sold at fair market value. Rollf said 849 sold for more than the tax assessor’s value, at an average of $30,000, and 201 sold below, at an average of $12,000 per parcel.
"That’s better than other areas of the country, but there are still too many homes selling undervalue," Rollf said, noting that, in theory, a reval should have been done this year.
Another good reason to do a reval is because land parcel values have changed dramatically, Rollf said.
"The BOA wants to reval everything in a way that the difference in lot sizes will be reflected in the lot values. It shouldn’t change the fair market value, but it’ll make it easier to understand," he said. "No one likes a reval – but it’s so important. Property taxes are ad valorem in terms of value and you shouldn’t have to pay more than your fair share for what you own."
Rollf said uniformity is the most critical part of reevaluating property values.
For a similar house in a similar neighborhood, the value should be about the same, he said. To do that, the Tax Assessor’s Office uses the fair market values based on sales from real estate sellers and buyers in Bryan County.
As a result of the 2006 reval, there were about 900 appeals out of more than 12,000 notices of increased property values, which Rollf said that "is really not bad."
In response to Thayer’s contention that the tax assessor’s office did not have enough personnel and resources to get evaluations out quickly enough for appeals to be made in 2006, Rollf said in 2008, there are enough personnel to efficiently run the department.