When Jackson County officials badly botched reassessment in 2013, more than 15,500 property owners came forward to request lower property values and tax bills. That accounted for a staggering one-third of all the properties proposed for higher valuations.
The media swept in to interview angry owners of homes and businesses. The county eventually conceded thousands of valuations had been incorrect.
Two years later, that debacle was not repeated. There was no surge in appeals. No chaos at the courthouse. No blanket changes in values.
That’s excellent news for property owners who want to pay only their fair share of taxes. Other winners include the many jurisdictions — especially school districts and cities — that rely on tax revenues to provide public services.
Give credit to Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, county staff and consultants for the progress, though further improvements are needed.
Thank taxpayers too: It cost an extra $775,000 to hire outside experts and pay for technological upgrades.
This week, county officials laid out numbers from the 2015 reassessment for The Star.
▪ Owners of just over 8,250 properties questioned the county’s proposed higher valuations. That was only 4 percent of the county’s total number of valuation increases, representing a dramatic change from the 2013 figure of about 33 percent.
▪ More than 60 percent of the 2015 valuations increased for parcels in the county.
▪ The average values went up 3.7 percent for residential units, 7.8 percent for condominiums and 5.4 percent for commercial property.
Especially given the fact that taxes likely will go up for many of those owners, Sanders and other county officials interpret the lack of outcry in 2015 to mean that, in general, people are pleased with the county’s valuations for their properties.
But not everyone is satisfied.
About 5,500 filings are being processed by the county’s Board of Equalization. Some commercial property owners, as is typical, object to the values assigned to their shopping centers, office buildings or retail stores.
Some homeowners have challenged the assigned values, saying they can’t sell their properties for what the county says they are worth.
Consultant John Ebert led the charge to reach the estimated market values for almost 300,000 properties. His penchant for detail impressed Sanders and others. Ebert said he wanted taxpayers to understand they could appeal the county’s findings but need to come armed with details to make their cases.
Ebert added that county assessors had learned plenty over the last year from property owners.
After an outcry in 2013, condominium owners provided robust feedback at public hearings and through a questionnaire about how the county could improve its processes. One result was a mini-surge in condominium values, without a corresponding large uptick in appeals.
Looking forward, Jackson County officials are reviewing whether it would make sense to spend up to $10 million on new software that would make assessments more complete and faster to compile. Those are sensible goals given the importance of reassessment to residents and property owners.
This year’s smoother, more professional reassessment inspires confidence that Jackson County is getting its act together in providing one of its most crucial public services.