Assessor defends steep rate hikes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

FRANKLIN—Steven Wampler, president of Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group, fielded questions from the City Council Monday night regarding the city’s average 18 percent increase in property reassessments.

Wampler told council members that when his company comes to a locality to begin determining market values, a sales study is performed, information is gathered from the clerk’s office and visits are made to the properties.

He said if the property owner is home, they also talk to them.

“One thing we see a lot of in Franklin,” he said, “is the gentrification of older homes.” On a national level, he said, property values have depreciated, but that Franklin is “more of a localized market.”

He added, “Things stay on the market longer here; they’re stable.”

In regard to whether any consideration was given for “severe changes in the housing market, Wampler said the computerized tables he works with were dropped by 5 percent.

“It did have an effect on our values,” he said.

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson inquired whether houses that stay on the market longer affect the “formula.”

Wampler said, “We are more like historians. We look at the market, and we look at comparable properties.

“If things stay on the market but for so long, they are overpriced.”

He also said that they didn’t analyze listings but they look at sales.

“Do you consider surrounding counties?” asked Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson.

Wampler said that different tables are used in each locality.

“(Isle of Wight) has no bearing on property here,” he said. “There are some similar lots in Isle of Wight, but we just deal in the boundaries of each locality.”

Concerns that were raised during the July 14th Council meeting prompted the question of whether Wampler-Eanes assessors were certified.

Wampler said while one was, the other was capable, citing his service to the Board of Equalization and the Board of Assessors. He also said a license isn’t required.

“I was the supervisor, and I signed off on all their work.”

When asked if he looked at each one individually, he admitted to not “reviewing every single one, but 70 to 75 percent of the property assessments.”

Councilman Benny Burgess asked if Wampler could provide the number of reviews that took place after the assessments were mailed out. Property owners had time to schedule meetings if they had issues with the figures.

“We had 158 appointments, which is about 4 percent,” Wampler said.

“We probably changed 40 to 50 percent of those we saw. The majority was a bit lower, but we had a few that were higher.”

At Burgess’ request, Wampler said he could also get information relating to what percentage of changes were due to error and how many were due to misunderstanding or not having complete information.

“Is there any correlation to properties listed now to the assessments?” asked Burgess.

“If a property sits on the market because it’s overpriced, that’s one thing. If the price is below the assessment, that tell me your assessment is too high.”