Lower assessments may not mean lower tax bills

2012-10-01T17:00:00Z 2012-10-02T13:35:19Z Lower assessments may not mean lower tax billsBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | While a lot of Porter County property owners saw a drop in the reassessments mailed out late last week, the change will not necessarily translate into lower tax bills, Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder said.

When the lower assessed values are sent downstate, it could result in higher tax rates if local units of government are unwilling to cut their spending, he said.

"That's all out of my hands," Snyder said.

The potential outcome is made even more uncertain as a result of the new tax caps, which makes it unconstitutional for property taxpayers in the state to pay rates higher than 1 percent of assessed value on owner-occupied homes, 2 percent on rental and farm properties and 3 percent on business and industrial properties.

A continued decline in assessments means more taxpayers could hit those caps, which is bad news for taxing units unwilling to cut their budgets, Snyder said.

Snyder said there is no clear pattern to where in the county assessments went up and down.

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski has been warning local government leaders for the last couple years that the lower assessments -- coupled with assessment appeal refunds and the tax caps -- could amount to trouble on the horizon.

He said Monday the county's overall assessed valuation went down by just more than $357 million. Land values rose, he said, but by only about half the rate of the decrease of improvements, such as homes and other structures.

Snyder said a steady stream of taxpayers showed up to this office Monday. Many of them had concerns about the removal of "negative influence factors" from the assessments, which are reductions for farmland, wetlands and excess land, he said.

The removal was done to correct inaccuracies in the assessments, he said. Property owners must provide evidence of these factors before the reductions will be restored.

Snyder said about 50 of the people who showed up at his office Monday filed appeals, in addition to about 85 filed online over the weekend. Property owners have until the end of the day Nov. 13 to appeal.

Taxpayers will be asked for immediate evidence to support the appeal, Snyder said. Evidence may include comparable sales from March 2, 2010, to March 1, 2012, an appraisal from the same time frame or any other relevant support.

Snyder said he expects by the end of the month to wrap up work on the more than 9,000 appeals that were awaiting him or were filed shortly after he took office in 2011.

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