Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Disgruntled taxpayers drop off

Property tax appeals plummet from 400 to 36

Express Staff Writer

What a difference a year can make.

When Blaine County property owners received their property tax assessments in the mail in 2006 many were shocked to see that the county assessor's office had raised the value of their properties significantly. More than 400 property owners—including the Sun Valley Co.—eventually appealed their property tax assessments that year.

This year, only 36 Blaine County property owners filed appeals with the Blaine County Assessor's Office by the June 25 deadline, nearly a 90 percent decline from last year.

The difference doesn't even take into account the fact that many of last year's appeals were for property tax assessments for entire subdivisions, Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace said Tuesday.

"That affected about 800 (individual) parcels," Pace said.

This time around, none of the 2007 appeals for property tax assessments were for subdivisions, she said. "They are all individual."

The major drop in appeals is likely the result of a plateau in property prices.

Any given year's property tax assessments are made on the basis of real estate sales data from the previous year. So, the property tax assessments mailed out to property owners in 2006 were from sales data in 2005, Pace said. That year saw a peak in the number of real estate sales transactions.

Since then, the local real estate market—like the markets in the rest of the United States—has entered a period of relatively flat sales, Pace said.

There were about 1,700 real estate sales in Blaine County in 2005, she said. Out of that total, the Blaine County Assessor's Office received sales data from only 240 of those transactions.

Because Idaho state law does not require real estate transactions to be reported, county assessors' offices only receive a portion of real estate sales data in any given year.

In 2006, there were fewer than 1,100 real estate sales in Blaine County, Pace said. Of that total, the Blaine County Assessor's Office received sales data from 284 transactions, more than the previous year when more real estate transactions took place.

Based on sales data the county assessor's office has received for Hailey and Bellevue during the first half of 2007, Pace said it's possible property tax assessments could begin a downward trend in those two cities when new valuations come out for 2008. So far this year, sales data have indicated a flattening of what until now had been an upward trend in home prices, she said.

The last time the area experienced a flat real estate market was between 1980 and 1981, Pace said. There were few buyers looking to purchase homes in a market flooded with excess inventory, she explained.

"There was really very little activity," Pace said. "It was kind of the bottom of the market."

Tuesday was the third and final day the Blaine County Board of Equalization met to consider appeals of property tax assessments based on sales data from the 2006 calendar year.

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