Tax assessor is here; hold on to your wallet

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Well, it is that time of year again when pests seem to pop up in every direction.

The mosquitoes come out, little gnats buzz around, wasp and bees threaten your peace and solitude, ants can ruin your picnic and pollen makes it difficult to breath. But nothing seems to be any more annoying than the tax assessor, and your new tax assessment, which threatens your pocket book.

If you live in Franklin and have been to your mailbox lately, you have probably received your new tax assessment. Please look at it closely. It is not only for your benefit, but also your neighbors.

Why, you may ask? Because if you don’t attempt to make sure that your assessment is correct and make an appointment with the tax assessor, he will automatically make claim that your assessment is correct due to your acceptance of his work—whether it is accurate or not.

Don’t believe me? Go to a City Council meeting and watch him defend his work. I have heard him make the claim that only a small amount of property owners questioned their assessment so therefore it is automatically assumed that the others are all correct and acceptable.

While I disagree with his theory, it is hard to argue his point unless we all as property owners confront him about his values. I have heard so many local people complain about their assessments, yet they didn’t go to City Hall and ask for a change or explanation of their assessments.

I have brought this up to City Councilmen Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham, and they too are encouraging your input to the assessor and at City Council meetings.

Additionally, newly elected City Councilman Don Blythe has been very encouraging as an open ear to listen and help in any way that he can.

If we don’t get involved, we can only blame ourselves. Go get involved.

In the Tidewater News’ Jan. 31 edition, Steve Wampler of Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group (Franklin’s tax assessor) made reference to the local real estate market as being stable and, with reference to foreclosures, stated, “Yes, there are some foreclosures, by all means, but there are not strong patterns of foreclosures.”

Well, I don’t know what he considers “strong patterns,” but if you research the homes that have sold in the city of Franklin in the past six months, I think you will find a tremendous influence. According to our local real estate MLS service, which is called REIN, in the past six months there have been 23 sales of residential homes in the city limits.

Of these 23 homes, 9 of these were foreclosed homes that were resold by the bank or other lender, and of these 23 sales, 15 homes sold below their assessed value.

Additionally, many homes are now priced well below their assessed values and still continue to be for sale and not sold.

He also stated the “average citywide lot has been pretty stable” and he expects the commercial market to be “stable or a little off.”

A little off? What is a little off?

Over the past 24 months, there has been one residential lot sale in the city limits, according to REIN. This one lot sold 20 percent below the assessed value.

Additionally, I only know of one private sale for a commercial lot, which was bought by the adjoining land owner. The lot was not for sale, but the neighbor was willing to pay a premium price for it just to get it assembled with their property.

I would like for the assessor to name me three or four sales of commercial properties or commercial lots that have sold since the last assessment period, not to mention sales that show an increase in value.

I see a lot of vacancy in the commercial districts, especially on Armory Drive in the shopping centers and downtown along Main Street. There has been one announcement of a new business being built from the ground up in the last two years for commercial use, and that sale has not been consummated yet.

I have already viewed several of the newest assessments, and one had an increase in the land value of over 30 percent. Why? What sale can justify this type of an increase?

I don’t know the answer to that question right now, but I will as I plan on being at the Reassessment Appeal Hearings.

After reviewing the assessments two years ago and these most recent ones, it appears that the land values were the most common values that were questionable. Now just in case you review your assessment and it seems that it is slightly less, equal to or maybe just a little increase, this in itself does not mean that it is correct.

Many of the assessments from two years ago were way off base and now are a benchmark for this go-round. So don’t review your assessment to see if it dropped a little and then be satisfied.

Compare it to sales of homes in your area and see how it compares (foreclosures included). This is not just about increases or decreases; it is about accuracy. The only way to ensure that the real estate tax is a fair tax is to make sure that the values are correct.

If you don’t do anything, and the tax rate is increased this year, which is a possibility, then you will be paying even more money in taxes (double jeopardy). Make sense yet?

If you would like to schedule a time to discuss your new assessment, you should call 562-4870 no later than May 17. The hearing dates are May 17, 18,and 19 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at City Hall.

As a property owner, you should question someone when they take your money and make sure that it is a just and valid charge. This is no different.

Please, meet with this assessor, question your values, get your neighbor involved and lets all make a difference and not take something sitting down. As a fellow citizen and taxpayer, I say thank you.