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Property owners take issue with value reassessments

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Kenai Peninsula Borough assessor's office has received about 450 inquiries in response to property reassessments mailed out March 1.

"We have two appraisal technicians in the field doing reinspections, and we've already processed 300 of those properties," said Shane Horan, borough assessor.

By state statute, the assessor is required to assess the value of property within the borough each year, and Horan said the volume of inquiries about the reassessments always increases soon after the notices are mailed to property owners.

Once the notices go out, people have until the end of March to formally appeal the adjusted values before the Board of Equalization.

Before filing an appeal, property owners may contact the borough assessor and request an informal meeting to go over the assessment and the property owner's perceived value of the property.

"Often, the issue can be resolved on the phone," Horan said.

If the property owner and the assessor cannot agree on the property's value during an informal meeting, people can file a formal appeal at a fee of $30 if the property value is less than $100,000; $100 if the value is between $100,000 and $499,999; $200 is the value is between $500,000 and $1.99 million; and $1,000 if the value exceeds $2 million.

If the appeal results in a reduction in the assessed value, or the appeal is withdrawn before all evidence is due from the homeowner, the appeal fee is refunded.

Property assessed includes commercial as well as residential property. The assessor is determining the value of 60,000 pieces of property in the borough.

An appeal must be filed or postmarked no later than March 31, according to Denis Mueller, borough appraisal manager.

"Typically the first week and the last week are the busiest," Horan said of the volume of inquiries received by the assessor's office.

When asked what the predominant issue is among the 450 inquiries received, Mueller said, "In most cases, the structure is unfinished or there is a lack of an interior inspection.

"We may estimate the house is 100 percent complete and it is not," he said.

Horan said that when appraisers go out, about 80 percent of the time homeowners are not home. The appraisers are not in the habit of peering into people's windows, so if they believe a house looks finished, it is appraised as finished.

"I do accommodate four 10-hour days," Horan said of the work schedule for the assessor's office, adding that appraisers typically work from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m.

"On special occasions, I have made appointments on evenings or weekends," he said, but he noted most people do not want appraisers coming by on weekends, especially Sundays.

Changes in land value also are being questioned by many this year. The last time the assessed value of property in and near Homer was adjusted was in 1999. This year, the borough evaluated all property from Fox River near the head of Kachemak Bay to Anchor Point.

"In the past four to five years, that's been a pretty robust market," Horan said, indicating property values have escalated.

The borough assessor's office will convert to a new computer software program next year, meaning items such as wells, septic systems and driveways, which had been included in land value, will show up as improvements.

"People will see their land value go down, but their improvement value go up," Horan said.

By statute, the assessor is required to set a "full and true value" on property annually, which means the estimated price the property would bring on the open market under current market conditions.

Property owners are required to notify the assessor of any improvements made to the property and should do so as close to Jan. 1 as possible after the improvement is made.

When asked at what stage of construction the improvement should be reported, Mueller said it should be as soon as the foundation is in, in the case of a building being built on the property.

"We then automatically flag those files to come up for reinspection annually," Mueller said.

People wishing to file a formal appeal of their assessments may do so at the clerk's office in the Borough Building on Binkley Street in Soldotna or at the city offices in Homer and Seward.

The appeal form is available on the borough Web site at www.borough.kenai.ak.us/assessingdept. However, the appeal may not be filed electronically.



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