Barry County Assessor Sherry Reynolds detailed how her office works and how to understand the assessment process during her presentation last week to the Monett Kiwanis Club.
Reynolds, elected last year as assessor after working for 21 years in the assessor's office, said there is a common misconception that the assessor's office sets tax rates. The job of the assessor, she said, is to calculate the value of the property. Taxes are based on levies adopted by various taxing entities.
A field staff from the assessor's office helps to figure up the value of properties by taking photos of homes. In the past, Reynolds said, only the front of the house was shot for the file. Front and rear photos are taken today and measurements of the house. Reynolds said staff usually does not go inside unless invited in by the owner.
A recently added tool to the assessor's resources has been a countywide bank of aerial photographs. Reynolds said her office could produce large photos for any property owner for a fee. Aerial photographs are very helpful in determining value, she said, by not only showing the property itself but also in showing adjacent land. Specific types of agriculture or industrial operations can influence the value of the property, as well as the proximity of water and roads.
The Lawrence County Assessor's Office, which got its map making system earlier, has a more expensive system, Reynolds said. Barry County looked at three different vendors and bought one from GIS System.
Once fieldwork is done, the assessor's staff compiles reports on every property, answering a questionnaire required by the State Tax Commission. Property dimensions are recorded. Each property is classified as residential, commercial or agricultural.
Reynolds said it is the obligation of the property owner to present proof of why a property should be exempt from taxation. A form must be filled out with the State Tax Commission. If a property owner disagrees with a valuation assessment, a hearing can be sought before the Equalization Board. The owner will then present proof to justify the claim.
There is a set timetable for activities by the assessor's office. Reynolds distributed the schedule, which shows notices of assessment increases go into the mail on June 15. Appeals to the Equalization Board are due by July 13 for counties the size of Barry and Lawrence. The board itself will meet on July 20 and complete its work by July 31. Appeals to the State Tax Commission are due by Sept. 30. Taxes are due by Jan. 1 of each year.
Within the work of the assessor, Reynolds said the term "appraised value" refers to the fair market value, which is the price a property would bring if offered for sale. The assessed value is the portion of the true value in money on which taxes are based.
The assessed value for a residential property, for example, is 19 percent of the appraised value. The assessed value of agricultural land is 12 percent, which commercial and industrial property is 32 percent. The assessed value of most personal property, such as cars and boats, is 33-and-a-third percent.
The assessor's office tries to work with property owners, Reynolds said. The assessor functions as an intermediary between the property owner and the taxpayer.
Reynolds was asked if the appraised value of a property drops would the assessed value also decline. Probably not, Reynolds said, since the assessed value is low already, usually lower than the market value.
If a house is appraised for one price, such as $100,000, and the owner has only put $75,000 into the property, Reynolds was asked if that should affect the assessment. Reynolds did not think so, because the assessment is based on the selling price, regardless of who put in the labor to achieve that value.
Reynolds added that if a property is appraised for less than its assessed value, her office will be willing to review the situation to see if the assessed value needs to be changed.
Kiwanis President Lisa Balmas presided at the meeting. Frank Washburn was the program chairman.
Among the guests at the meeting was J.C. Harrell, incoming Kiwanis lieutenant governor. Harrell reported the Missouri-Arkansas District convention for Kiwanians has been scheduled for July 31 to Aug. 2 in Joplin.