BREAKING: Deal Will Raise Value of County Homes 15 Percent

Texas County and the Texas County board of equalization reached a compromise over residential property prices in the county, which will raise the market value of homes by about 15 percent.

With the deal, the State Tax Commission also will release about $71,000 in funds it withheld because of what it said was lack of progress on a parcel-by-parcel review of homes by the county assessor’s office.

The board of equalization – composed of Commissioners Linda Garrett, Joe B. Whetstine and Don Shelhammer, Surveyor Louis Carmack and two citizens appointed by the county commission, Brian Reed of Licking and Steve Matherly of Cabool – earlier rejected the state’s order to raise home values on the books by about 20 percent and double the market value of lots.

The equalization board had second thoughts last week about the fight with state. Reed was the only dissenter. “It is a good compromise,” said Robert Epperson, manager of technical services for the State Tax Commission.

The decision will spark a flurry of work to notify about 10,000 owners of residential property in the county. That job – by state statute – falls on the county clerk’s office. Property valuations had already been sent to political subdivisions. With the decision, a new round of figures will be sent.

For taxpayers, it is bound to be confusing, said County Clerk Don Troutman, whose office was engaged Tuesday in trying to generate the information for taxpayers.

Some property owners already received from the county assessor an “impact statement” that their property values had increased following the parcel-by-parcel review. With the compromise, another notice will reflect the additional 15 percent on the values of homes and 25 percent on the price of a lot.

Property owners will be able to appeal to the board of equalization beginning July 21.

Some background: On May 30 of last year, county commissioners and the county assessor met with the State Tax Commission to discuss the completion of work to bring the county in compliance with state law.

In a letter dated June 6, 2007, the three-member State Tax Commission set out the terms of an agreement so “there is no misunderstanding regarding the plan for reviewing parcels and adjusting assessments.”

State officials say after the letter was signed, little was done to keep the parcel-by-parcel review of residential property on schedule. Missouri pays about half of the cost of the administration of the tax system in the county.

The letter highlighted these points:

*That a parcel-by-parcel review would continue until July 2, 2007, at which time the 2007 assessment rolls would be turned over to the county clerk.

*Notices of any change of values would be sent to property owners, and they would have the right to appeal to the board of equalization.

*Following that process, the assessor and her staff would continue the giant review.

*By Aug. 31, 75 percent of the parcels were set for review. By Dec. 31, the entire process was to be done.

In reality, the job wasn’t completed until the end of May of this year despite sending state personnel in the field to help. Along the way, the state withheld nine months of reimbursement for tardy work. James said she was hampered by a series of bad weather events and the fact there are more than 10,000 parcels to review. James said the parcel-by-parcel review was fairer for taxpayers – rather than instituting an across-the-board increase.

By April 30, the State Tax Commission issued an order concerning property values in the county, which the assessor and later – the county board of equalization – defied. It said residential property values were too low: The state said a $5,000 lot in reality was worth $10,000 and a home on the books for $100,000 actually has a market value of $120,000.

The compromise changes the $100,000 home’s worth to $115,000 and the lot’s value to $6,250.

So if the tax rate is $5 for each $100 of assessed valuation, how much more taxes would be paid? The answers: about $12 for the lot and $143 for the house. In reality, the state auditor’s office has the final say and some political subdivisions in the county may have to roll their levies back to prevent receiving a tax windfall.

For clerk Troutman, the situation is unique to county government over his 30-year tenure. “It’s a mess,” he said.

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