Fayette property tax assessment appeals work their way through process

The mid-June deadline for appealing property assessment notices has ended and the appeal process is underway for those contesting the assigned value of their property. Fayette County Chief Appraiser Joel Benton said that process will include the appeal of 2,605 parcels and will take several months to complete.

Benton said there were 2,605 appeals registered for 2011 out of the notices sent for 42,966 parcels. Of those being appealed, 2,110 were for residential property and 495 were commercial. The value of those properties totaled $76.16 million based on the customary 40 percent valuation used to figure the taxes owed. The number of appeals was up from the 1,612 filed in 2010.

Benton said the office is very early in the process, adding that the county also has the Aug. 1 deadline for submitting tax digest figures to the state unless Fayette County requests and receives an extension.

Benton said that, unlike in previous years, the passage of House Bill 346 required that every property owner in the state receive a “Uniform Assessment Notice” this year, adding that the current moratorium on unimproved property will continue through 2011.

The Uniform Assessment Appeal Form provided several options associated with an appeal. An appeal can go to the county’s Board of Equalization, to binding arbitration, to a hearing officer for non-homestead property with a fair market value in excess of $1 million or directly to Superior Court with consent of the Board of Equalization.

The traditional way appeals are handled is by property owners initially working with the assessor’s office before proceeding to other methods of appeal.

Outlining the initial process, Benton said, “If you filed an appeal using the Board of Equalization pathway, you can expect a phone call when an appraiser will be in your area. The appraisers only do an exterior inspection unless an appointment has been requested. Appraisal staff will strive to complete all appeals in a timely manner.

“After the inspection, you will be notified by mail of a change or no change. If you accept the change, that is the end of the process. If you do not accept the change or if you received a no-change letter, you will be notified by Superior Court of your appointment with the Board of Equalization,” Benton said.

To handle the 2,605 appeals, Benton said the office has three residential appraisers and one commercial appraiser for those tasks.

It is not uncommon for an even smaller number of appeals to take a number of months to work through the process. That is also likely to be the case this year, Benton said.

So how is that handled, given that tax bills are due in November? The answer, said Benton, is that the bill for property still in appeal will be estimated at 85 percent of the what the property tax bill would be. Once concluded, a corrected tax bill will be issued indicating whether a refund will be forthcoming or if an additional payment is required.