Sticker Shock: land values jump

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By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor

As the annual property tax notices hit mailboxes across the county last week, there was a collective groan over the possibility of paying a higher tax bill at the end of the year for many Morgan County homeowners. With the value of property increasing across the county, some homeowners are hoping the millage rate will be lowered to balance the cost, but the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) have proposed raising the millage rate from 9.49 to 11.31, the highest millage rate since before 1987. The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) will adopt a new millage rate on July 16, after three public hearings in July.

According to Chuck Anglin, chief appraiser for the Morgan County Tax Assessors, while property values have certainly increased this year, the tax notices include only a rough projection of a homeowner’s total tax bill based on the assessed value of the property and the current millage rate. “It’s just an estimate, but it’s by law that we have to put those in the assessment notices every year,” said Anglin. “People’s actual bills will depend on what the millage rate is set at later this summer.”

Reportedly, some property owners experienced up to a 30 percent increase in their home values this year. However, the calculated countywide average is a 9.62 increase in property value. Anglin noted that while increases, or decreases, in home values will vary for every property owner, home values, on a whole, are increasing across the entire county. “I think what we have seen is the returning to a normal market. A normal market always has higher values than the depressed market like the one we saw in years prior,” said Anglin. According to Anglin, the jump in property values reflected in this year’s tax notices resulted from more property sales at higher prices in the last year and the steep decline of foreclosed properties in the local housing market. “Foreclosures are no longer a competing factor in the market,” said Anglin.

Anglin also noted that there were about 400 “arm’s length sales” (sales between unrelated/unaffiliated individuals) in 2014—about 100 more sales than in 2013. A large factor in determining home values lies in the number of sales of surrounding houses and the price for which those nearby homes are sold. “It’s completely different for every neighborhood,” said Anglin. “We try to use homogenous properties and homogenous sales—comparing apples to apples. Each neighborhood is looked at individually based on their market activities,” explained Anglin. While there was a significant increase in property values this year, Anglin noted there was an even bigger increase in 2013. “As far as the digest totals go, there was a larger jump in property value increases for 2013 than in 2014,” said Anglin. Since the tax notices were released, the Tax Assessor’s office has been inundated with questions about why the value of homes have increased so drastically.

“We have fielded a lot of inquiries,” said Anglin. “We explain to them the process and stress to folks that they can’t appeal their taxes, but they can appeal the assessed value.” Homeowners have until July 6 to file an appeal with the Morgan County Tax Assessors office. Homeowners can research their property values and surrounding property values at: “They can research what info we have on their property and can see what properties have sold around them,” said Anglin. “We understand people are worried about their taxes, but we only calculate property value, we have nothing to do with the tax rate. That’s up to the government.”

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