Equality is main goal of county valuations

Staff reporter

Telephones were ringing off the hook this past week, as they are this time every year, at the Marion County Appraiser's office after county residents received their annual property valuations.

County appraiser Cindy Magill already had warned property owners at a recent Marion County Commission meeting that some property values were increasing.

And some did.


Contrary to some beliefs that it is a way for the county to receive more tax revenue, it actually is more complicated than that.

The county appraiser's office is governed by the Kansas Department of Revenue. State statutes are implemented and followed that require the local county appraiser to follow a specific protocol when it comes to determining the fair market value of properties.

Per K.S.A. 79-503a, fair market value is the "amount in terms of money that a well-informed buyer is justified in paying and a well-informed seller is justified in accepting for property in an open and competitive market, assuming that the parties are acting without undue compulsion."

"For residential property, we look at the past three years of sales," Magill explained.

For the 2008 values, which were received by taxpayers this past week, appraiser's office personnel reviewed sales in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

"We compare the age of the homes with the number of rooms and bathrooms, square footage, basement, etc." Magill said. "We compare sales of properties with each other to determine if property values need to increase or decrease."

Through a computer program, the particulars of houses that are sold are compared, processing the sales prices and the values.

Information is obtained from the register of deeds office, including a sales validation questionnaire that is required to accompany all valid property sales — residential and commercial.

For typical sales of properties, the questionnaires are required by state law that divulges information about transactions, including the sale prices of properties. There are exceptions to the questionnaire that include sales between family members, foreclosures, and inheritances.

The sales price data is computed with other comparison information with like properties in the county to help determine fair market values.

Reappraisal began in the 1980s, Magill said, as a result of a railroad company claiming an inequity in property values. Property values at that time were based on 1966 or 1967 values. Through a court hearing, a judge ordered a reappraisal. Since that time, efforts have been made to determine a fair and equal way to appraise residential properties so property owners are taxed in the same manner.

Each year the county appraiser is required to re-inspect 17 percent of county properties. This year, properties in the cities of Peabody and Lincolnville, and townships of Clear Creek, Liberty, Logan, and West Branch were re-inspected.

"Sometimes these inspections can dictate value increases," Magill said, which are based on remodeling and other projects that increase the property value.

Are properties selling?

Despite national trends, Magill said sales in Marion County have remained steady.

"Sales may be slower with properties setting on the market longer than before but sellers are getting more than they originally paid for their properties," Magill said.

In 2007, there was a slight decrease in "true" sales — non-family, foreclosure, etc. — from the year before. There was a total of 462 total sales transactions in 2007 and 528 in 2006.

Reasons for increases

Besides the sales of like-residential properties, other reasons property owners may see an increase in property valuations is when improvements are made on the individual properties.

Those improvements may include the updating of a kitchen or bathroom, and/or installing new windows or central heating and air conditioning units.

"Whatever improvements are made that will enable the buyer to turn around and sell the property for more money can increase the value of a property," Magill said.

County residents are required to acquire a building permit if the footprint of the house is changed.

During the re-inspection process, field appraisers are required to measure at least two sides of each structure to determine if the buildings have been expanded. Interior inspections are not conducted.

Magill said valuations for commercial properties are done differently. Replacement costs in like-condition or income potential through a lease agreement are considerations for property values.

Vacant land values are based on true vacant land sales, Magill said.

Agricultural land is valued by the state and based on use and soil type.

Marion County is not alone in seeing an increase in property values.

"Many counties are experiencing the same increases," Magill said, and cited one Kansas county commission even considering a mill levy decrease to offset property value increases.

Appealing process

Every taxpayer is entitled to a hearing if he thinks his property has been unfairly appraised.

If a taxpayer wants to file an appeal, he must do so within 30 days of receiving the valuation notice in the mail.

An appointment is set for hearing by calling the appraiser's office. When contact is made, the taxpayer will receive a packet of information that includes tips to prepare for a hearing, inventory content sheet, and comparable sales information that determined how county personnel determined the value of the property.

The packets of information are available to any taxpayer who requests it, even if he does not want to appeal the value.

"Our goal is to find equity and to be fair," Magill said.

For more information, call the appraiser's office at (620) 382-3715.