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Washington County issues new property assessments

Robert Houk • Updated May 1, 2019 at 9:37 AM

Employees in the Washington County Assessor of Property’s office were busy Tuesday fielding questions from taxpayers asking about recent changes to their property assessments.

“All the phone lines are lit up, and we’re answering questions as best we can,” Assessor of Property Scott Buckingham said. “People are asking why the changes were made. We are explaining to them that this is part of state-mandated reappraisals.”

Buckingham’s office completed a “mass reappraisal” of the 65,822 taxable parcels in Washington County earlier this year. Taxpayers began receiving their assessment change notices in the mail this week.

“The tax rate has not gone up,” Buckingham said. “We are just talking about property values.”

Washington County is on a five-year schedule, with the last countywide reappraisal conducted in 2014. Buckingham said his office notes improvements to properties — by monitoring building permits and on-site inspections — even in years between reappraisals.

“The economy is much better than it was during he last reappraisal, so property values have increased for many homeowners,” Buckingham said.

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.

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 he has six employees taking questions from property owners regarding their new assessments.

“Bear with us and we will answer your questions as best we can,”  he said. “We will look to see if we’ve made any errors.”

Property owners also have a right to appeal all new appraisals to Washington County’s Equalization Board. Buckingham said the board will meet throughout June to hear from homeowners who feel their property reappraisals need an adjustment.

Those appointments will be set during the last two weeks of May by calling 753-1676.

Meanwhile, the county’s property tax rate remains unchanged. Now that the reappraisals are completed, state law requires county commissioners to recertify the property tax rate — based on the amount of new dollars taken in under the reappraisals — to match the same amount of tax dollars collected under the last tax rate adopted by the county.

It’s considered a property tax increase if a government claims new revenues without making such an adjustment to the tax rate.

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.

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