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Land values rising -- blame the media

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Roane County Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham said people should blame the media if they are disappointed when new tax appraisal notices start arriving in the mail.    

“The news media has made it so negative that we’re all in this economic decline and everything is going south and no property values are increasing,” Kirkham said.

“That’s the general format that everybody in the county has on their mind, ‘My property is not worth what it was a year ago because of the economy. My property is not worth what it was a year ago because of the ash spill,’” she added.

“That’s not true.”

Despite one of the worst economic downturns in American history coupled with an environmental disaster of national proportions, Kirkham said property values in Roane County have risen.

“My heart goes out to a lot of people that think their property values haven’t increased,” she said.

The county is on a five-year reappraisal cycle. The last one took place in 2005.  

Kirkham said her office used 2004 property sales to determine the value of properties for the 2005 reappraisal.

To determine the value of properties for this year’s reappraisal, Kirkham said her office is using 2009 sales.

“From ’05 to 2010, property values have increased,” she said. “We are using the ’09 sales to set that market.”

“So our values have gone up?” Commissioner Ron Berry asked during last week’s budget committee meeting.

“Mmm-hmm,” Kirkham responded. “That’s over a five-year period ... It’s not from 2008 to 2009 to 2010. It’s from ’05 to ’10.”

“I can understand over a five-year period,” Commissioner Bobby Collier said.

Kirkham said there is no formula used to derive property values.

“Sales of similar property indicate value,” she said.

Kirkham said the new appraisal notices should start arriving in the mail next month.

“There’s going to be a lot of people screaming and hollering about these new appraisals,” said Tony Scruggs, who owns a waterfront home near Kingston.

A deep recession that started in December 2007 has left many people out of work across America and in Tennessee.

For example, Roane County’s unemployment rate was 5 percent the month the recession started.

Today, the county’s unemployment rate is 9.2 percent.

During a meeting with the budget committee last fall, Register of Deeds Sharon Brackett said the county had a 20-percent increase in foreclosures.   

On Dec. 22, 2008, a dike failure at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant released 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash into the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called it “one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind in history.”

Considering what the United States and Roane County have been through, Scruggs said he understands why a lot of people think their property isn’t worth as much today as it was in the past.  

“Everybody is basing it on the economy,” he said. “They’re basing it on seeing foreclosures. They’re basing it on property not selling and really it’s the right belief. It truly is. The property here shouldn’t be going up.”

While acknowledging that there’s been some tough times because of the economy and TVA disaster, Kirkham said the housing market here has fared better than other areas of the country.

She said most of the declines in property values have been confined to Nevada, Arizona, California and Florida.

“The four sand states is what’s hit hardest, and that’s caused the national media to say property values have declined,” Kirkham said.