BENTON - Reassessment of real estate for the 2004-2005 assessment years in Scott County is complete, according to Assessor Teresa M. Houchin.
Houchin said she will begin sending impact notices today. "There are going to be about 13,000-14,000 letters going out," Houchin said. "Anybody whose property has gone up will get a letter."
If the value on a property remains the same or decreases, the assessor is not required to notify the owner.
The land itself will not change values this year except in Scott City, Houchin said. Sikeston and Chaffee land values changed in 2001.
"It's all residential, ag and commercial property," she said. "Any improvements on the land will be increasing value."
State law requires assessors to reassess or reappraise all real estate property in the county every odd-numbered year for property tax purposes as the state constitution requires that values on property reflect their fair market value.
"We're supposed to be reassessing every two years. I'm doing it every four years," Houchin said.
In 1997, there was a state-mandated reassement of all improvements. "Every county had to do it," Houchin said. "We had to do a big index change. And then I did one in 2001 and we're doing it this year."
"Our value market is not going up like it does in St. Louis or Kansas City. They are selling a lot more, the market is a lot higher," she explained. "We do a major index change once every four years. It's a big process doing it."
Houchin said it is important to maintain accurate current assessments so that state funding to local schools is not jeopardized. The assessor said it is also crucial to base all values on market value to ensure uniformity and fair treatment of all property owners.
"We reviewed property throughout the county to confirm the accuracy of our records, added any new construction and applied obsolescence," Houchin said. "Then local market conditions were determined by studying recent sales and new construction cost information and new values were established."
The assessor said values have increased in most areas of the county due in part to increased building costs and moderate interest rates. The amount of increase, if any, will vary depending on age, condition, size, style and location of the property.
"All property has gone up around 5 percent," Houchin said.
Property owners who believe the assessor's value does not reflect market value may set up an appointment to discuss the assessment with the assessor. The owner, however, should be prepared to present substantial information indicating a value lower that the assessor's. This usually takes the form of appraisal reports.
"Appraisal reports are on everything - inside and out," Houchin said, while the assessment just evaluates the outside. "The appraised value will always be higher than the assessor's value, or they should be at least."
The deadline to challenge the assessment is May 20. "They have three weeks to call in," Houchin said. "A lot of them wait until the tax bill comes out and then it's too late to change it."
The Board of Equalization will meet in late June or early July to hear arguments against the assessment, according to Houchin.
The impact on taxes from an increase in valuation can not be calculated until September when the tax levies are set by taxing entities such as school, fire and ambulance districts, the health department, and county government for general revenue and law enforcement.
An increase in value does not necessarily result in an equivalent percentage increase in taxes, Houchin said. The statutes require the assessor to place accurate values on the tax rolls for 2005, not to raise or lower taxes.
When property values increase the taxing entities are responsible for rolling back their levies to offset substantial valuation increases.
This year two bond issues were passed in the county. In the Kelly School District, taxpayers will see an increase in taxes because of the index change even though there was no tax increase included with the bond.
"Sikeston will have a value increase from the assessor plus an increase in taxes from the school bond," Houchin said.
To contact the Scott County assessor, call 573-545-3535.