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Reappraisal values to impact county budget

Eight to 10 Washington County residents per day are meeting with the Board of Equalization to discuss their reappraisals, according to Assessor of Property Scott Buckingham.
“It’s a good opportunity to come in if you feel yours is wrong; it’s not just a shut door,” he said.
The Property Assessor’s Office mailed approximately 60,000 reappraisal notices, one for every parcel in the county, at the first of May.
The Board of Equalization is available Monday through Thursday during the month of June to hear appeals from residents who want to request a change in the value. Fridays are used for field inspections.
Current members are Rogers Carter, Marion Light, Larry Manis, Ralph Martin and P.C. Snapp.
“People need to come in with some kind of proof, not just ‘mine’s too high,’” Buckingham said in reference to approaching the board.
Members will consider the information, conduct a field inspection if necessary, and reply in writing regarding the appeal. Residents who disagree with the answer then have the option to appeal to the state.
Buckingham said the most common sentiment expressed during an appeal is “my house is not worth that.”
The reappraisal of real property values, conducted every five years, is always based on the prior year’s sales.
“It’s not like hiring an appraiser. We don’t go inside,” Buckingham said. “It’s for tax purposes only, not the true value of the home.”
Overall, Buckingham said the 2014 reappraisal went well. “Residential had a little decline, commercial saw increases and decreases, and the state takes care of the green belt,” he said. The green belt refers to farmland.
For the first time, one resident came in to say his reappraisal was too low. “That has to be a record in Washington County,” Buckingham said.
When the Board of Equalization completes the appeal process, the information will be forwarded to Nashville. “After everything is said and done, the state takes all of the numbers into consideration to set the base rate,” Buckingham said.
The certified tax rate, known as the base rate, then goes before the county commission. “They need that to determine the budget,” Buckingham said, adding he hoped to have the number in July.
The county commission has the option to approve or increase the base rate, and the final number goes to the Trustee for tax notices mailed in the fall.
Mayor Dan Eldridge told Budget Committee members during their June 11 meeting that the net assessment of gain and loss from the Board of Equalization and the base rate from the state are the missing pieces as the county begins to ramp up the 2014-15 budget process.
According to Eldridge, the county had a net growth of $21.6 million in the tax assessment of real and personal property as of May 5. However, that three quarters of 1 percent growth compared to April’s inflation rate of 2 percent is not good news.
“The net effective useable revenue is declining,” Eldridge said. “This is the fourth year in a row we have talked about flat revenue, and nothing is changing. The economy is improving, but local government is lagging.”
Commissioner Joe Grandy said the county needs to improve the efficiency of the staff structure. “The big expense is people, and we need to get our arms around a practical process to evaluate what to do as people retire or move on to another place,” he said.