Debate still brewing over property values

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 16, 2001

Lincoln County officials say questions regarding new propertyvalues have subsided somewhat, but some property owners maintainthe values are “excessive” and not reasonable.

Tax Assessor-Collector Nancy Jordan fielded questions from someproperty owners Friday after returning from a state conference onthe coast earlier in the week. She said questions about thenotices, which were sent out earlier this month, were notunexpected.

“Any time you have a reappraisal, there are a lot of questions,”Jordan said.

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What made this year’s reappraisal different, though, was thesize of a number of property value increases.

“In a number of cases, it’s quite excessive,” said citizenJohnny Perkins, adding he had spoken to several residents whothought their new values were “way out of line.”

Perkins said he heard of properties with several hundred percentincreases. He also mentioned a neighbor’s strip of land along therailroad tracks that has seen a substantial increase.

“A lot of this is property that is marginally marketable,”Perkins said.

Perkins is on the agenda for Monday’s county supervisors’meeting to raise questions over the selection of Reed HerringAppraisers and Computer Services of Wilkinson County to do thework.

County resident Peter Swalm said his Lincoln Plaza propertyappraisal showed an increase from $1.7 million to $6.5 million.

“I really think that is some sort of mathematical computererror,” Swalm said.

However, he too, had spoken to other property owners aboutinflated property values. He said some were about as “reasonable asputting a milk pail under a bull.”

“It’s not even close,” Swalm said.

Perkins and Swalm mentioned concerns about commercial property.Swalm cited some Highway 51 property that was appraised at twicethe selling price last year.

“Property value hasn’t gone up that much,” Swalm said.

Downtown property values have also been called intoquestion.

“Most anybody who’s got property downtown has got one or twothat are out of line,” Swalm said.

Perkins pointed to a $175,000 purchase by the city for someproperty near the government complex that is now being used forparking.

“If they’re using that as a guideline, it’s not a goodguideline,” Perkins said.

Jordan questioned inclusion of that sale and an $89,000 purchaseor nearyby property by the county in the evaluation. She toldsupervisors earlier this month she did not think that needed to beincluded.

Other values, though, were backed up by sales, Jordan said.

“We’ve got verified sales from different people,” Jordan said,adding that purchase information is sought from buyer andseller.

As far as her experience, Jordan said property values were notthe biggest questions she had heard from property owners. Thebiggest question was about residents wanting a better explanationof the property value notices that were sent out.

“I’ve not had that many come to tell me their values were thatout of line,” Jordan said.

Questions regarded whether the notice was a bill or if thecounty was trying to sell the person’s property, tax officials saidlast week. More than 11,000 notices were sent to property ownerswhose values had increased by $1,000 or more.

New property rolls are open for public inspection during July atthe supervisors board room. Citizens who object to their new valuesmust submit a letter to the chancery clerk’s office and may appearfor a hearing during the Aug. 6 supervisors meeting.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop was compiling information forsupervisors regarding their options in relation to the new propertyvalues. He estimated 25-30 people had signed up to appear at theAug. 6 meeting.

“That’s nowhere near the number of people who will come ifsomething doesn’t change between now and then,” Bishop said.

Jordan said she will continue to try and help people with thetax notices.

“My door will be open for the questions they’ve got,” she said.”I’ll do my best to help them.”