Union County

Union County assessed property values fall in 2015

The majority of Union County’s landowners recently learned that their assessed property values have declined, some dramatically.

Union County Tax Administrator John Petoskey said 95,000 notices were mailed March 20 to inform landowners of their property’s new tax value after the county’s 2015 assessment.

All categories of real estate – from residential to agricultural – saw an overall decrease in value compared to values established during the county’s last assessment, in 2008 – before the recession hit and real-estate prices plummeted.

The decrease in assessed values increases the likelihood the county will call for a higher tax rate, although Union County Commission Chairman Richard Helms said he will work to find other solutions to the county’s budget needs.

Helms said county officials have started asking staff to consider ways to trim expenses, and he said he hopes the school system will look at cutting costs.

“If at all possible, I don’t want to raise taxes again,” he said, referring to last year’s 15.4 percent tax increase.

The total value of the county’s reassessed property-tax base won’t be available before April 6, when county commissioners hold their next meeting, Petoskey said

“I think we’re going to be, overall, down on our tax base,” he said.

Approximately 80,000 of the county’s 95,000 parcels are classified residential. Of those, 69 percent decreased in value and 31 percent increased.

Residential property values decreased a median of 5.4 percent, Petoskey said.

Petoskey and Phillip Every, appraisal manager for the county, said that no particular residential areas were hit harder than others, despite earlier reports that expensive homes in western Union County saw the largest declines. Petoskey said the real-estate market’s recovery has helped many of those houses regain much of the value lost since the 2008 assessment.

The average home value is $233,079, and the average land parcel is valued at $178,345, Petoskey said.

He and Every said property owners experiencing the largest decrease in value are those with larger lots, or those with undeveloped land.

“Properties with a larger land component… that’s really the largest common denominator” for the biggest decreases in value, Every said.

As a category, agricultural properties saw the largest declines: 91 percent of properties decreased in value, and 9 percent increased. The median change for agricultural properties declined 29.2 percent.

Petoskey said agricultural property is taxed at farm-use value, which hasn’t changed significantly since the last valuation.

Commercial properties saw the smallest decrease, seeing a median drop of 2.3 percent, with 55 percent of properties receiving a reduced revaluation.

Another difference between the 2008 and 2015 revaluations is the number of buildings added to the tax base in those seven years. Every said 282 buildings classified as “commercial/industrial” and 7,485 “dwellings” have been built in the county since 2008. New construction is added to the tax roll each year, he said.

After the 2008 revaluation, more than 5,000 property owners appealed the assessment, Petoskey said. He said property owners who want to dispute the 2015 assessment have until May 20. Information on the appeals process was included in the change-of-assessment notices sent to property owners and can be found online at www.unioncountync.gov.

Petoskey said he expects fewer appeals and questions following this revaluation, which he called “one of the more equitable revaluations conducted in Union County.”

He referred to a formula called coefficient of dispersion, which measures the variation between an assessment and the sales ratio. The lower the number the better, he said.

“Improving equity is the main reason for doing a revaluation,” he said, “and we basically cut our COD in half. A low score is good here; anything under 10 is excellent.

“We ended up with a post-revaluation 7.8 COD, which was down from the 14.4 pre-revaluation.”

Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at jbduckwall@gmail.com.