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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Roane County has one of the highest property tax rates ($2.72) in the area. Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham said the Roane County Commission will be required by law to decrease the tax rate this year because of the reappraisal. However, that does not mean everyone in the county will be paying less taxes. Kirkham explains how that’s the case in Part 2 of a question and answer session with the Roane County News.
How will some people end up paying more if the tax rate is decreased?
“The rate is lowered the average increase of countywide growth. If your average increase was, say, 28 percent, then the people that didn’t increase 28 percent, they’re going to pay less. The people that increased 28 percent exactly is going to pay the same. The people that increased above 28 percent is going to pay more, so think about that. When you have an average of anything, you got a certain amount below and a certain amount above. The people above is going to pay more and the people below is going to pay less.”
What is this year’s average increase of growth?
“That’s not public record as of now. That percentage will be what the tax rate drops, and when that tax rate drops, that will be what tells the taxpayer what they will pay, more or less.”
So what are you telling people when they ask you if the values in a certain area or on a particular piece of property have increased?
“I’m open right now to speak to anybody, but I can’t be specific as to this area increased a certain percentage and this area increased a certain percentage. I can’t be specific to that right now, or your value increased 15 percent or 50 percent or whatever. I can talk in general to anybody right now.”
What if a person has their home on the market for less than what you have it appraised?
“The number of sales that we have to go by to set the market are down, so that could happen. People could have properties on the market for sale and we don’t know it. If the sales price is below the appraised value, they do need to come in and talk to us, especially if it’s been on the market any length of time.”
How has the decline in sales complicated the process?
“It just means your data is limited. Like your burden of proof is limited to the sales you have, where you could have really proven it was worth that because you had X number of sales. Now you can prove it’s worth that, but your sales are smaller.”
Is the property assessor responsible for setting the property tax rate?
“No. The county commission sets the tax rate. The only things assessors do is what we call split the check. We just reappraise the county for areas that have grown. Some are out of line. Some are too high. Some are too low based on the growing market trends.”
Are you counting the sales of the people who sold out to TVA and bought somewhere else in the county?
“No. That’s kind of considered a forced sale. Those people were forced to move. They were forced to buy something else.”
So those sales don’t factor into your data at all?
“Say you’ve got a street where they’re all selling for $300,000, around that ballpark. If they paid in that ballpark, that sale will be noted on the map. If they come in there and pay $500,000, no. That sale will not be taken into consideration.”
What can people do if they are dissatisfied with their new appraisal?
“We don’t want to treat any taxpayer unfairly. We will be willing to sit down and talk and go over anybody’s appraisal that we need to. We’ll be reasonable. Now, where that reasonable number is in somebody’s head and what the data shows may be two different things, and that’s where you go into the appeals process.”
So people don’t have to settle if they are unhappy?
“No. They have several avenues of appeal, the county board, administrative law judge and the state board. Somehow, somewhere, between my staff and those avenues of appeal, we’ll come to some number that we can all live with, or the appeals system will give us a number that we’ll have to live with.”
When will the county board start hearing appeals?
“Notices are mailed out the middle of May. The county board starts meeting the first of June. Those hearings go on until all taxpayers are heard and then the administrative law judge appeals date sets after that.”
What should people be most concerned with when they get their new appraisal?
“The $50 question: Is your property worth that if you were going to sell it. That’s what we tell them to ask themselves. Is my property worth that? Could I sell it for that? If it’s not then they do need to appeal.”