Assessments with a surprise

Some county residents may be getting a surprise in the mail. County Assessor Ron Nicholson confirmed that property assessments for 2009 were mailed last Friday.

This year, some resident will notice a decrease in the full cash, or market, value of their homes and an increase in the limited cash value of their homes. In Kingman, assessments have dropped an average of about 16 percent, he said.

People are confused. The Assessor's Office has already started to get a number of calls about the increase in limited cash values, Nicholson said.

The county and other primary taxing entities, such as colleges and other government entities, use the limited cash value to determine the amount of property tax they will collect for the year.

The limited cash value is defined and set by state statute. The county has no control over it, he said.

Also limited cash values lag behind market values by about a year. According to state statute, limited cash values are increased by at least 10 percent every year until they catch up with full cash values. That is why there is a decrease in the full cash value but not the limited cash value.

Also by law the limited cash value cannot exceed the full cash value of a property.

But there's still more good news for taxpayers.

Proposition 101, which voters passed two years ago, caps county revenue increases at 2 percent per year plus new growth. Therefore, county has to adjust its tax rate to meet that 2 percent cap. Which means when limited values go up, county tax rates should go down.

Nicholson confirmed that this year the county's tax rate will fall from $1.53 per $100 of assessed value to $1.33 per $100.

That doesn't mean that all property taxes will fall, he said. There are still a number of taxing entities, such as fire and flood districts, that use the full cash value of a property to calculate the amount of tax they charge property tax owners. These districts do not have a cap on how much revenue they can collect in a year.

These districts could leave their property tax rates at the same percentage as last year and collect more taxes than they did last year.

For example, a fire district has as tax rate of 5 percent. Last year, a single home in the district was valued at $100,000 and the property owner paid $5,000 in taxes. This year, the same home is valued at $200,000. The district keeps its 5 percent tax rate.

However, this year the property owner owes $10,000 and the district gets to say that it didn't raise its rates.

Commercial property owners will also see an average drop in their full market value of about 3 percent, Nicholson said.

Vacant landowners will see very little or no change in their values, he said. Because of the market, there have been very few land sales. That may change next year.

Owners of mobile or manufactured homes may see an increase in both of their values.

To calculate the value of a property with a mobile or manufacture home on it, the county has to use a depreciation schedule put out by the Arizona Department of Revenue, Nicholson said.

Once the county has the value of the home, it calculates the value of the land and then adds the two values together, he said.

This year ADR recalculated its depreciation schedule and in the process increased the value of some homes by as much as $10,000 to $20,000, he said.

Nicholson welcomes taxpayers to come to his office and appeal an assessment if they think it is unfair. Property owners have 60 days to appeal their assessment. On average about 1 percent out of the 260,000 parcels in the county are appealed. Around 70 percent of the assessments appealed are lowered.