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Property values not gaining as officials hoped

The value of property across Lincoln County increasedcollectively by only $1 million in 2009, a slowed growth rate thatwill leave county supervisors little wiggle room when compiling thebudget for the coming fiscal year.

According to the newly released 2010 county land rolls, the truevalue of all real and personal property appraised in 2009 is $1.16billion, up approximately $10 million from the previous roll’stabulation of $1.15 billion. The increase caused assessed values torise from $140 million to $141 million, far less than the $14million increase seen between 2007 and 2008.

“We just don’t have the increase we’ve been having,” said LincolnCounty Tax Collector/Assessor Nancy Jordan. “We’re not gaining asmuch value as we have been.”

While 290 new buildings – businesses, homes, barns and otherstructures – were constructed in Lincoln County in 2009, new homeconstruction fell off by around 30 percent, with only 84 new homesbuilt last year, Jordan said. In 2007 and 2008, an average of 120homes were built each year.

Although the true value of the county’s new growth registered $19.4million, several detractions brought the gains back down.Agricultural use values have been lowered again, resulting in anassessed loss of $7 million, while local car tag sales have fallenby $4 million as people hold off on buying newer, higher-valuevehicles.

“For a county this size, when you lose $4 million, that’s a lot,”said county appraiser Leon Perry.

The anemic value growth in Lincoln County leaves supervisors with astale source of tax revenue for fiscal year 2011, which begins onOct. 1. Board president Doug Moak said supervisors are looking toeither maintain the current funding level – which would result in aroughly $15 million budget for the third consecutive year – ordecrease expenditures.

“I want every department to do the best it can to trim back becausethe last thing we want to do is raise taxes,” he said. “Thefamilies are in the same situation the county is. Everyone’s budgetis stretched tight, so we’re going to have to do our best to atleast leave it where it is.”

Supervisors replicated their 2008 budget in 2009, voting in a $15.2million spending plan that included no new expenditures, no payincreases and no tax increases. If the same option is chosen in2010, it would make the third consecutive year supervisors have saton the $15 million mark, even as highway maintenance and othercounty costs have sharply increased.

Last year’s toe-the-line plan still drew criticism, however, as thestatic millage rate coupled with increased property values causedcounty citizens’ taxes to increase. If the millage rate is left inplace again in 2010, this year’s increased property values willcause property taxes to increase slightly again.

County residents have the remainder of July to inspect the countyland rolls and view their own property assessments, with thedeadline for filing protests with the tax office set for July 31.Whatever property taxes that result from this year’s assessmentswill be final if the assessment is not contested by thedeadline.

The rolls are kept in the boardroom on the first floor, and thecourthouse is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

If a protest can’t be resolved in the tax office, supervisors willbegin holding hearings during regular board meetings in August.