For the first time in as long as Property Assessor Mike Morton can remember, property values in Blount County depreciated because of the economy.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that even though the downturn in the economy and the sluggish real estate market precipitated an overall depreciation, property values are still 8 to 9 percent higher than they were four years ago.
The last time property in Blount County was reappraised was in 2006, when the state went to a four-year cycle.
“This is like no cycle we’ve ever seen,” said Morton. “Normally over a reappraisal cycle, you have normal appreciation of property. What we’ve seen in this cycle is very unusual. For the first two and half years, from Jan. 1, 2006 to mid-2008, we saw normal appreciation in property values just as it has always been. About mid-2008, we started seeing the results of the downturn in the real estate market and the economy in general. That has made the reappraisal more of challenge and a more difficult reappraisal process than normal.”
Morton said that, historically, statistics have shown normal appreciation in Blount County is about 6 percent every year. “If it had kept up, appreciation would have been about 25 percent. Because of the downturn in real estate in mid-2008 to now, that appreciation is down to 8 or 9 percent,” he said.
Barry Mathis, assistant property assessor, said property appreciation rates range from 8 to 10 percent throughout Blount County. “In Maryville, the growth will be about 8 percent, and in Alcoa, it will be about 9 percent,” he said.
Mathis said property owners usually get concerned when talk of revaluing property begins. “Anytime you talk about reappraising property, it gets interest levels up, and they get nervous as to what the outcome would be. There is a little anxiety associated with it when you get into discussions about reappraisal, but it is state-mandated,” he said.
Mathis said part of the anxiety is that many believe that a new appraisal automatically means paying more in taxes.
“The real truth is, when the certified tax rate comes in play, the certified tax rate lowers the tax rate,” he said.
State law says that the tax rate is set so that the county brings in the same amount of revenue as it did in the past assessment, which prevents taxes from rising automatically as property values increase. The county and cities can then work off the certified rate to raise additional revenue.
Morton said the new numbers have been certified by the state and are:
• Blount County - $2.04 per $100 of assessed value;
• City of Maryville - 2.17 per $100 of assessed value;
• City of Alcoa - $1.96 per $100 of assessed value.
The current tax rate for Blount County is $2.23 per $100 of assessed value, $2.30 for Maryville and $2.10 for Alcoa.
Mathis said all reappraisal processes are difficult. “This one probably even more so because of the dynamics of the economy, and the recent downturn of the real estate market,” he said.
Morton said the primary tool for determining value is obtaining hundreds of sales recorded each year from the Register of Deeds office. These sales assist the property assessors office in understanding what properties of the same type are selling for on the open market. Assessors spend their time analyzing these sales that have taken place during the past couple of years in each area of the county to determine where they need to increase or decrease property value. Mathis said normally property assessor associates also do a visual review of property.
Morton said the reappraisal process for the county has been completed and turned into the State Division of Property Assessments. “They monitor what as we do throughout the whole process. They have to certify your final reappraisal to 100 percent of market value, and they’ve done that,” he said. “Everyone, by law, is required to get notification anytime there is an assessment change.”
Morton said that on Friday, May 21, the state will send out those assessment changes.
“It will have all the pertinent information - what their appraisal was last time, the previous assessment, the new value and assessment. There also is contact information for people to contact our office if they have questions about the new appraisal or new assessment,” he said. “We always expect response, and we prepare for that by having an off-site meeting location. We’ve done that the last three reappraisals. We have a site in New Midland Plaza. We get a special telephone number aside from our normal office with six rollover phones. We start that phone bank and are prepared with our appraisal and support staff who can handle walk-ins.”
The off-site meetings at New Midland Plaza are scheduled for May 24 through June 18.
Morton said confusion over the difference between appraised value and assessed value is quite common. “The appraised value is an estimate of market value while the assessed value is a fractional amount of the appraised value,” he said. “This fractional amount is based on the property’s classification, which is determined by the property’s use. The assessed value, not he appraised value, is applied to the tax rate to produce a tax bill.”