Most property owners in Marion County have either received, or will be receiving, their tax statement this month. Those who don’t agree with valuation can file a payment under protest.
Lisa Reeder, who succeeded Ray Cook as appraiser in July, said there are two, possibly three times a year when taxpayers can appeal valuations.
“The first time someone can appeal their taxes is when the value notice is mailed out from our office March 1,” she said.
If someone wants to file an appeal at that time, they have 30 days to call the appraiser’s office, and set up an informal meeting as soon as possible, Reeder said.
“The second time is when (a taxpayer) gets their tax statement in November; if they don’t agree, they can pay their taxes at the same time they file a payment under protest,” she added.
The county treasurer has forms available when taxes are due Dec. 20 and May 10, she said.
Property owners can file a payment under protest on a delinquent tax, but only if the treasurer allows it.
“As an appraiser, I can only hear the current and past two years,” Reeder said. “Someone can file, and I can hear it, but (our office) can only change the current and previous two years,” if the appeal warrants a change.
This would be an informal hearing, she said, and gives people the chance to go over different approaches and hopefully arrive at an agreeable decision with her office.
“Probably the best time to appeal taxes is in the first half because by the time second half hits, we are already valuing that next year’s value,” she said. “And if there is a problem, we can fix the data for not only the year someone is appealing, but also the next year.”
Reeder said in January 2017, her office assessed values, then mailed value notices March 1.
If someone disputes the tax value, they then have 30 days to appeal, but if they don’t then they have a tax statement in May, but that’s regarding the year 2016.
Reeder said the tax statement property owners just received is for the year 2017 year.
Taxpayers then have until May 2018 to appeal their 2017 tax year, she said.
“But taxpayers can only do it once, so if someone appeals in the informal setting—that’s it—the hearing process is over,” Reeder added.
When Reeder became the county appraiser Aug.1, the office was doing neighborhood analysis, which starts the phase for the following year’s valuation.
“Right after certifying real estate, (the office) begins working on next year’s information,” she said.
The studies include neighborhood analysis with the second land analysis; Reeder said they have already passed that phase.
The next study is for residential purposes; they do market modeling, which is what will indicate and set the values for 2018.
“That’s the residential phase, and we are working on that right now, which is complete except for market modeling,” Reeder said.
For each parcel of land, building improvements must be measured and described through on-site inspections by field appraisers.
Reeder said state statutes require all properties to be physically inspected and remeasured by an appraiser at least once in a six-year period.
The reason is that it helps ensure that all new construction and changes to existing improvements are discovered and added to the tax rolls, she said. In addition, it also helps keep data current on the property, should errors be found.
The appraiser’s office also uses building permits provided by the cities that have building codes within the county. The statutes also require that all real property is revalued annually.
Reeder said communities in this part of that six-year cycle include Centre, some of Marion, but not a lot of the town, and Marion County Park and Lake.
“The people we have seen have been (mostly) positive throughout the process,” she said.
Looking at the inventory in Marion County, Reeder said there are 4,099 residential properties and 1,417 farms with homesite (building plot for a house).
In addition, there are 376 ag improved sites, such as a barn or Quonset, and 4,669 parcels of agricultural land that could mean crops or pasture land, she said.
The county has 659 vacant lots, 522 commercial and industrial properties, 15 classified as other, and 574 exempt, which Reeder said could mean schools, churches or city and county buildings.
Reeder said her first few months as county appraiser have been a “gentle transformation,” with nothing completely skyrocketing or completely bottoming out.
Reeder said the commissioners talked with her about setting a goal to have all studies under one roof.
It also meant any consulting firms would be phased out as part of that goal.
Reeder said she has been paralleling the consulting group to make sure the process continues to stay smooth.
“We are the only department in the courthouse that is graded (by the state), which means we don’t have the opportunity to pick on individuals regarding valuations,” she said.
“If someone wants something checked over or have something looked at, then I want to know that before I send something out. I want to make sure I didn’t miss something along the way.”
Although Reeder admits it’s common knowledge that appraisers aren’t the most popular public servants, they still have a job to do.
“That job will be enforced by the state. No matter what, it will be done,” Reeder said. “The biggest thing is being open to taxpayers and, if they have questions, to answer them.
“I want people to feel comfortable (regarding transactions they have with the appraiser’s office). I also want people to have a positive thought when they see us,” she added.