“The reappraisal is something that goes on every five years,” Buckingham said. “It appears Washington County has weathered the recession, and has come out pretty strong.”
Washington County is on a five-year calendar, which means values for homes have largely remained the same since 2014, when the last reappraisal was conducted. Buckingham said his office notes improvements to properties — by monitoring building permits and on-site inspections — even in years between reappraisals.
By A Broad Stroke
Buckingham said his 11 employees are now conducting a “mass reappraisal” of the 65,822 taxable parcels in Washington County, of which 29,728 are located inside the incorporated areas of Johnson City. That includes land and buildings — both residential and commercial.
“That’s where we take the overall sales in a subdivision and come up with a median price for homes in that neighborhood,” Buckingham said. “It’s painting with a big brush.”
Appraised value for property is different from the market value, which is defined as the amount of money a well-informed buyer would pay and what a well-informed seller might take for property in a competitive market. State law establishes what is regarded as a legally equivalent definition of value for property taxes in Tennessee.
Determining The Values
State-mandated reappraisals are used to set the assessed property tax values of houses and businesses. Residential property is taxed at 25 percent of its assessed value, while commercial property is taxed at 40 percent of its assessed value.
Buckingham said the appraised value of taxable property in the county is determined by his office. This amount is an estimate of the most likely price that the property will be sold. The appraised value is then multiplied by the assessment ratio to determine the assessment value.
County officials are also appraising property newly added to the tax rolls. Buckingham said that includes new homes in the fast-growing northern section of Washington County. He said the cost of land in the county has increased as the number of available lots to build on has decreased.
Property owners have a right to appeal all new appraisals to Washington County’s Equalization Board. Buckingham said the board will meet in June to hear from homeowners who feel their property reappraisals need an adjustment.
“If we have made a clerical mistake, the board can correct it,” Buckingham said.
Setting The Tax Rate
Once these reappraisals are completed, local governments are asked to recertify their property tax rates. That requires the property tax rate to be adjusted — based on the amount of new dollars taken in — to match the amount of tax dollars collected under the last tax rate adopted by the county.
It’s considered a hike to the property tax if a government claims new revenues without making such an adjustment to the tax rate. And in years when property values have decreased (such as the 2014 reappraisal in Washington County), local governments have the option of raising the tax rate to recoup those lost dollars.
Washington County commissioners last raised property taxes in 2016, when they approved a 40-cent hike that increased the property tax rate to the current $2.38 for every $100 of assessed value.