Notices about the new values assigned to nearly 50,000 properties in Haywood County went out Wednesday.
Haywood County Tax Assessor Judy Hickman is expecting people to have lots of questions given that property values have increased about 25% to 40% and even more in some cases.
“The big thing is, we’re here to assist in any way we can,” she said.
A second factor property owners should be aware of is that a spike in property values doesn’t mean a property taxes will skyrocket.
Haywood County Commission Chairman Kevin Ensley has been through four property reappraisal cycles.
The only year he remembers that commissioners didn’t lower the tax rate when the values were up was in 2002, he recalled. Two of the commissioners up for re-election didn’t make it, and Ensley was one who did.
“I didn’t vote on that budget, but the values went up close to 30%,” he said. “They were building the justice center and just left the rate as it was.”
For the past two revaluation cycles, 2011 and 2017, property values actually dropped, Ensley said, which made the revaluation processes relatively simple. The lingering effects of the recession depressed values in 2001, while the 2017 valuation showed an average drop of 2%, he added.
It’s when property values rise significantly that property owners get nervous. The values alone, though, are only a part of the equation because it is the tax rate that determines the ultimate amount owed. Haywood commissioners have indicated they will reduce the tax rate, so overall, taxpayers shouldn’t owe much more than they did last year unless there were other property improvements that drove the value up.
“Our board is committed to lowering the tax rate to around the revenue-neutral amount,” Ensley said. “We’re already 25th lowest out of 100 counties. I see us hopefully being in top 10 lowest in the state.”
The last reappraisal in Haywood was in 2017, and Jimmy Tanner, president of Tanner Valuation, has been assisting the county for the past 18 months to determine the market values that will become effective this year.
The higher values people will see on their tax notice reflect the vastly higher sales prices in the county, Tanner said. Some property values also may have risen because of improvements made over the past four years.
Raw land property values have increased, but not at the rate of residential properties, he said. Commercial prices are up as well, but most values increased between 15% and 25%, he added.
Unlike past years, property owners won’t be able to schedule in-person meetings with the appraisal staff. Instead, there is both a mail-in appeal process and an electronic appeal option.
Those who have problems with either form can call the tax office, Hickman said.
By using the electronic appeal option, taxpayers will be able to view every piece of information that was used to determine the new value of their property. If property owners have additional information the appraisers may not have considered, the appeal process is the way to share it, Tanner said.
“Their case will not be handled any differently than if they were here in front of us,” Hickman said.
There are any number of reasons the reappraisal staff may not have all the information needed to determine a fair market value, which is the reason for the appeal process, Tanner said.
For instance, a house might have termite damage, or there could be right-of-way issues, structural issues or other problems that aren’t apparent from looking at a home. All that could be a reason to reduce the new value.
However, the appeals can work both ways. All values were revisited as of Jan. 1, Tanner said, but sales prices in Haywood County have continued to climb.
“Because values increased so drastically, we were very conservative in assigning values,” Tanner said. “If we go back and look at current market values during the appeal process, there could be an increase.”
There are two reasons that will not be considered valid for an appeal — that the property value increased too much from last time or that owners don’t believe they can afford to pay the tax, Tanner said.
“What you bought or sold property for more than one or two years ago is not a valid reason we could use,” he said. “We have to go by recent sales. That people just don’t want a value that high is not a reason we can consider.”
The appeal process is expected to take several months to complete, Hickman said. She urged property owners to be patient as the appraisal staff works its way through the large number of expected appeals.