Pettis County property owners saw an increase in their property values this year, leaving many residents with questions about why this took place.
Pettis County Assessor Chris Woolery explained the increase and answered questions during Friday afternoon’s Pettis County Pachyderm meeting at Best Western State Fair Inn. Woolery stated that property values had increased very little over the past decade, leading the county to drop out of compliance with the State Tax Commission.
“We in the assessor’s office don’t have that mindset of increasing (assessments) on people,” he said. “Our goal is to try and keep things as they are. Over a cure of time, over a decade, that can lead to some problems when we’re not making small adjustments towards our market…”
“When that kind of thing happened and we’re in an increasing market, our values have slowly dropped out of compliance with the State Tax Commission.”
Woolery explained representatives from the State Tax Commission visited him in late 2018, and had him sign a document indicating he would get the county into compliance in 2019.
“They had me sign a document and they told me that I will do all of this in 2019,” Woolery explained. “There were no stipulations on making small steps. It’s you will get to the minimum value that we need you at and thus here we are.”
Woolery and the Pettis County Assessor’s Office have been working on this since they received the news that the changes were required.
“Since all of this has happened I made all the adjustments that they required of me,” Woolery said. “What we saw was an average increase in people’s market value about 15 to 18 percent. “Some people who had increases in prior years, those would have went up a little less,” he continued. “I’ve seen down in the 10% percent ranges and there are others who had a lot of deductions to stay where they had been.”
The office sent out just under 14,500 change notices. They did receive several that were returned from the post office, so those who did not receive their notice will still be able to appeal their value per state statute according to Woolery.
For those that did received their notice, Woolery and his staff have been working with them for the last three weeks. Woolery said that they have been receiving around 110 calls a day and several people walking in.
“We have done our best to try to get back with everybody,” he said. “We check our messages late in the evening and make our call list and start calling people the very next day… There has been a lot of frustration on the deadlines that are put on these change notices.
“Those deadlines are per state states, but that does not mean that we stop working with people,” he added. “I’ve continued to work all this week on different evidence that people have brought to me. Everybody in the office has still been going out for reviews. We’ve been to several residences this week.”
Woolery said people need to have some type of documentation if they are going to justify an appeal. One thing they look at is insurance statements. The office also has had people bringing in comparable sales and sales contracts.
“When we look at an insurance statement we’re looking at what our replacement cost new is versus what the insurance statements’ replacement cost new is,” Woolery said. “If the insurance says replacement cost new is lower, we can adjust for that to get our replacement cost down to what it needs to be.
“Then the depreciation will be attached to that new number and the value would then decrease,” he continued. “That’s why insurance is important.”
Woolery also said he hopes that the property value increase will mean a decrease in taxes, although the assessor’s office is disconnected from that. Woolery explained when a taxing entity is setting their tax rates they take their budget and divide that amount into the assessed value to come up with their tax rate.
“If that assessed value jumps up then we should see lower tax rates because they've got more money to pull,” Woolery said. “So, what we should see at the end of the year is some lower tax rates.
“So, that any estimation that you get with 2018’s tax rates, that would be a very high estimate and we should see some lower tax dollars when the actual tax bills come out,” he added. “That is in theory how it all works.”
Woolery said he has been able to get the county to the minimum requirements that the state wants and that they are planning on making small adjustments in the following years to keep the county up to date.
“We shouldn't see large increase like this again as long as we stay steadfast in keeping up with what the markets show, looking at smaller adjustments so you won’t see a 15 percent increase…” Woolery said. “Hopefully we can see more regular numbers rather than nothing until the state comes down on us and we have to hit them with a big chunk. Our goal is to keep working everything so that everyone feels the least amount of burden.”