Friday, June 9, 2006

Assessment notices and your taxes?what to expect

Guest opinion by Valdi Pace

By VALDI PACE, Blaine County Assessor

The 2006 assessment notices are in the mail. Idaho state law, Title 63, says, in part, the assessor is to assess properties at "current market value." There are occasions that the assessment of your property can and will change yearly. This depends not only on physical changes to the property but also due to changes in the marketplace.

Physical inspection of property in the county is done on a five-year cycle. If your property is not in the current physical inspection cycle, we typically make changes to the values by "trending or indexing." The trends are a result of our analysis of the sales data that we receive throughout the year. All sales used in the assessment process must have been a closed transaction prior to Jan. 1 of the current year.

Unfortunately, due to Idaho being a non-disclosure state, the sales information we receive is limited compared to the amount of actual activity that occurs in the marketplace. We have received fewer returns over the past few years from the sales verification letters we send to buyers. The 2005 sales information we received and used to value property for the 2006 assessment drive was the lowest percentage (just over 13 percent) ever received in the history of collecting sales data.

This decline in information gives us very limited information to assess your property. We can only work with the information provided to us. This lack of information can create inequities in the assessment process. It is up to you, the property owner, to be sure that you and your neighbors are treated equitably and paying your fair share of the property taxes.

You, the property owner, should encourage your friends and neighbors to share their sales information with us. I have always taken the position that the more information we have, the better job we can do in our assessed values, thereby creating fairness and equity throughout. What that means for you, the property owner, is that your values were set based on this limited information. In fact, one sale may have set your value.

I have made attempts in my two terms as your assessor to get better information. However, new buyers consistently tell me they are told not to disclose to the assessor what they paid for their property, thereby making our job of fairness and equity a very difficult task to achieve. We have not seen a decline in sales prices according to the information we received in the past year. I am being told that the market is soft this year in 2006. There is a considerable amount of inventory on the market, and the seller's motivation to sell may be changing. If our studies prove that sales prices are going down in 2006, there will be a reflection of this downward trend in the marketplace (if it truly exists) on your 2007 assessed values.

The Idaho Legislature passed into law an increase in the homeowner's exemption to $75,000. A portion of this exemption will now be applied to your land value as well as to your home value. This should help our primary resident homeowners with their 2006 taxes. The Circuit Breaker income level was increased as well. However, the deadline for those applications for the 2006 tax year has passed. We did see an increase in applications for this property tax reduction program.

Your assessed value is as of Jan. 1, 2006. Any changes made to your property or the marketplace after this date will be reflected in the 2007 assessment. Please note that you will not see estimated taxes on your 2006 assessment notice. What you will see on your assessment notice are the taxing districts in your tax code area, the dates of their budget hearings, if applicable, and their telephone numbers. Your portion of the tax dollars needed to pay for these budgets (local government, school bonds, etc.) are determined by calculating the levy rate times your 2006 assessed value. The levy rates are not set until the budgets are finalized and approved. They are not typically available until late September. It is up to you, the taxpayer, to get involved and be a participant in those budget hearings to make sure your tax dollars are spent wisely.

So, please look at your assessment notice.

Now is the time to appeal your assessed value if you disagree with our value, not in November when the tax notices are sent to you. If you question the values stated, first ask yourself, "Could I sell my property for the assessed value?"

If you still have questions about the values (we can make mistakes), please call the assessor's office at (208) 788-5535 before the deadline to appeal your value. This deadline is at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 26. We will answer your questions to the best of our ability using the most recent sales information. If you have additional information, including a recent fee appraisal (within one year) we will consider this in our analysis, and discussions of your property value. It is up to you, the property owner, to provide us with the evidence that we are incorrect in our valuation.

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