Reappraisal notices hit mail

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By The Staff



Roane County property owners should receive their new appraisal notices in the next few days. Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham said they will be mailed out today, May 14. In this final installment of a question-and-answer session, Kirkham discusses several topics, including her reluctance to disclose the location of the reappraisal office.

Why do the county and cities depend so much on your office to set their budgets?

“Without my reappraisal numbers, they won’t know how much money that they have coming into the county, and the cities also.”

What’s your response to people who say the reappraisal is just a scam so the county can get more money?

“It’s not. The law is the county cannot obtain more revenue (from existing property) in a reappraisal year than the prior year. So if they took in $4 million from taxes last year, that’s the number they have to hit this year. The rate has to drop to where they hit that same amount of revenue. It’s not a scam.”

So the tax rate is supposed to drop this year?

“It has to by law.”

So whatever the countywide growth is, that’s how much the tax rate has to drop.

“That’s exactly right. They take out new construction and new subdivisions. That’s the two things the county gets to earn more revenue from — new construction and new developments. Say your certified tax rate keeps your revenue at $4 million and then you’ve got another $1 million of new construction and new development. That’s all new money for the county. That’s where they can earn some money in a reappraisal year.”   

Even though the tax rate is required to drop this year, the county commission could choose to raise the property tax rate in 2011 – the year after the reappraisal?

“They can do that. They have the power, the commission and the city councils have the power and authority, and their requirement by law is to fund the county and cities. If they see the need for more revenue, they’ll increase the tax rate.”

Many people think higher appraised values means higher taxes. Is that the case?

“Reappraisal is to equalize value to the respective growth in the market. It doesn’t mean your taxes are going to increase. It means the tax rate will drop and a certain percentage of people’s taxes will go down as well as some will go up in the higher growth areas. Where the market value has grown, the tax dollars will go up.”

So some people will experience a tax increase?

“They could decrease just as easily as they could increase, depends on the market value in the respective areas. When the certified tax rate decreases, some people will pay less taxes.”

How can people contact you or your staff to discuss their new appraisal?

“We will have two weeks of informal hearings. You can call the number on the notice, or you can call the assessor’s office, or you can come in and discuss it with someone. If you’re not happy with that number, you shouldn’t be thinking of what you pay in taxes at that time.”

What should people be thinking?

“At that time you should think, ‘Is my property worth that,’ because that is the number you have to live with for five years as the taxpayer. That’s the number that your property sets at the appraised value for five years if you do nothing to it. You pay taxes on that number. If it’s not accurate, you need to call in and talk to someone at the reappraisal office, which will be staffed with my employees, plus some state employees will be there to assist.” 

Where is the reappraisal office?

“We’re not giving that out at this time.”

How are people supposed to know where to go?

“They call in or come in here. It (the reappraisal office) is across the street, but with people blowing people’s brains out, I’m a little nervous about giving it out. We can’t hide people from over there. We’re not trying to do that, but we’ve got security here (at the courthouse) where we don’t have there.”

Do your appraisers work off commission?

“No. Neither do I.”

Can I look at the new values you’ve placed on properties in the county?

“No. The taxpayer has to get notification first. The notice has to go in the mail to the taxpayer first. You wouldn’t want somebody coming in here saying, ‘Oh, I looked up your tax appraisal and it went up to this,’ and you not have any word of it.”

What is the main point you’d like the property owners to know?

“Reappraisal does not mean an increase in taxes. Reappraisal means revaluing the county.”