More than 80 people filled a public forum room Wednesday night, concerned about the skyrocketing residential appraisal increases hitting their Johnson County homes.
“It went up significantly, just this year,” Brian Sisney said about the county’s valuation for his Overland Park home. “So we’re going to protest, because in a free society that’s what you get to do, and that’s what you should do.”
Sisney and many others came to the meeting seeking answers about the county's residential value increases, and steps they can take if they want to challenge those values.
The Johnson County appraiser’s office mailed out more than 200,000 residential appraisal notices in late February. Many of those values showed steep spikes, especially in Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Mission, Merriam, Overland Park and Olathe.
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Some homeowners are seeing increases of 20 percent or more, and that’s on top of similar increases last year.
The increase is good news for people trying to sell their homes and make a big profit.
But they are a concern for people who don’t plan to move. Increasing appraisals mean property taxes are likely to go up as well. A 20 percent appraisal increase can translate into a property tax increase of several hundred dollars.
Johnson County Appraiser Paul Welcome, who has headed the Johnson County appraisal office since 1991, told the crowd that the double-digit appraisal increases are due to the fact that this is the tightest housing market he’s ever seen in Johnson County. Appraisals are pegged in large part to recent sale prices for comparable properties.
Only about 1,300 homes are currently for sale across the entire county. A normal market would have about 6,000 homes for sale. With such low supply and high demand, many homes in the most desirable neighborhoods sell just days after they go on the market. Sellers are getting multiple offers, often above the asking price.
Demand is especially high for homes under $350,000. Jeff Ramsey, the county’s residential appraisal manager, told attendees that for homes listed under $350,000 in February, offers were coming in 114 percent over the list price.
The average Prairie Village sale price was $334,000 in 2017, up from $295,000 in 2016. Roeland Park's average home price jumped from $184,000 to $204,000.
Prairie Village Ward 4 council members Brooke Morehead and Sheila Myers attended Wednesday's forum and voiced worries afterward about the potential hardship on seniors and people with fixed incomes.
Morehead said she’s heard from one longtime owner whose home value went up to the point where she is concerned about being able to pay her projected tax increase.
“I want her concerns to be heard,” Morehead said.
Sisney, who has lived in Johnson County since 1964, said he, too, is worried about the potential tax increase.
"I'd like to see a law where real estate taxes don't go up more than 3 percent a year, period," he said.
Joe Waters, assistant county manager, said before the meeting that the Johnson County commissioners are keenly aware of the appraisal increases and the potential property tax impact.
He said the county commissioners have instructed staff to look closely at a possible county mill levy reduction to counteract some of that. The county portion of the total tax bill is about 16 percent. Mill levies for schools, cities and other government services make up most of the tax bill.
The appraiser’s office 2018 report, released in late February, says the average appraised value for single family homes went up 16.6 percent in Spring Hill; 16.25 percent in Roeland Park; 15.58 percent in Mission; 11 percent in Prairie Village; 11 percent in Merriam; 9.43 percent in Gardner; 8.46 percent in Olathe; and 7.8 percent in Overland Park.
Cities that saw lower overall increases included Lenexa, 7.56 percent; Fairway, 5.79 percent; Shawnee, 5.55 percent; Leawood, 5.24 percent and Mission Hills, 2.52 percent. The total average residential increase, countywide, was 7 percent.
Residents can challenge their appraisals with the county if they think the valuation is too high. The deadline to appeal is March 28, and the form is on the back of the appraisal notice. The county will conduct appeal hearings by phone or in person.
Appeals jumped from 3,000 in 2016 to 5,000 in 2017 and they may go even higher this year. Welcome says between 40 and 50 percent of those who appeal do get some reduction in their appraised value.
Ramsey said people wishing to appeal shouldn’t just complain that they think the value is too high or that their taxes are too high. He said they should present specific information about how the home’s condition merits a lower value, and what they think that reasonable value should be. A private appraisal can be helpful in that argument.