Appraisal concerns voiced
By SCOTT AUST
The Finney County Commission heard from a few residents Monday morning who have some concerns about annual property appraisals received last month.
Bill King expressed concern about what appears to be a constant cycle of higher home valuations every year. To King, it looks like the appraiser's office goes looking for the highest home sale that can be found and spreads it to all the houses in the county.
Mostly, King doesn't like that homes like his seem to get compared to new homes in the Southwind area, the highest priced property in town.
"I'm not calling anybody dishonest ... but it's a dishonest way to run the process," King said. "If you want to bring (a home near the country club) and apply it to Garden City, that's wrong."
There also seem to be a lot of swings in appraised value from year to year, King said, which isn't healthy for homeowners and businesses.
"Our community can't keep going on like this. If my house keeps going up like it has, I won't be able to afford to live there. I won't," he said.
County Appraiser Maria Castillo said her office considers fair market value when a house sells in the county. A set of comparables are then developed to determine similar homes' valuation based on a number of items, some of which include square footage, quality of construction, style of the home, condition, or whether a home has a garage.
In the end, the appraiser's office has to come within 10 percent of market value, set by state statute. "We are driven by statute. We constantly have to make sure we are following procedure," Castillo said. "We have to base our value on what's going on with Finney County's market value, and we're constantly being checked by the (state) property valuation department. We're not just doing whatever we want to do. We are following state statute."
While the process is mostly set by the state, there are some "tweaks" local appraisal offices can make in certain situations to adjust a home's valuation.
"If people have questions on valuations, come in and talk to us," she said. "We have to go through such a large number of parcels in a short amount of time that we could overlook something, or may need to take another look at a comparable. That gives us the opportunity to take a second look at your property."
J. "Scotty" Scott wanted assurance that a portion of property at 801 E. Santa Fe would go back to being considered residential after he moves construction equipment off the property to a commercial property he owns at 713 W. Maple.
When Scott received his valuation notice last month, he wanted an explanation about why a part of the Santa Fe land was changed from residential to commercial, and a portion of a detached garage was changed to commercial use.
During discussion, it was revealed that the changes were made because construction material and other items were located on the land that caused it to be designated commercial, and they weren't moved off the property by Jan. 1.
A closer look at the garage as part of Scott's appeal resulted in changing the garage to residential. But until the construction equipment is relocated, the land will continue to be considered commercial.
"We have to set values on Jan. 1 every year. Come Jan. 1, 2013, we have to go by what the property is being used for, and the items were still located there. We're not treating you any different than we would any other taxpayer," Castillo said.
If Scott moves the items before Jan. 1, 2014, the property would be appraised as residential for next year's valuation statement, Castillo said.
Commissioners sympathized with public's frustration with the appraisal process, but indicated there's little that can be done at the county level.
Commissioner Roman Halbur said he thinks when homes are grouped together for comparison, they ought to stay together for at least five years, and a mechanism implemented to adjust value for inflation over that period to avoid a huge jump in value at the end.
Halbur said the county should push for something to make property values more stable.
Randy Partington, county administrator, said the county commission doesn't have a lot of authority on appraisals. He said about all the board can do is urge state legislators to make changes.