Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blaine property values dip again

Total assessed value in county declines 11 percent


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Home values in the county dropped for the second straight year, Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace reported to the County Commission on Tuesday. Photo by Trevor Schubert

The total assessed value of all private property in Blaine County has dropped for the second year in a row.

On Tuesday, Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace told the County Commission that the total estimated value of all property in the county for 2010 has dropped to just under $10.6 billion—an 11 percent decline from 2009 values, which were just under $11.9 billion.

In Idaho, each year's property assessments are based on real estate sales data from the year before. County assessors cannot use sales data after Jan. 1 of each year to determine that year's property assessments.

The Blaine County Assessor's Office received sales data on a total of 275 sales in 2009.

Pace said the sharp drop over last year did not surprise her, given the state of the housing market.

"That's roughly what I expected," she said. "The market has finally caught up with us."

The figure reported by Pace on Tuesday does not represent the final assessed value of all properties in the county. County assessors are still wrapping up final details.

Plus, the county still must go through the arduous board of equalization process. The Blaine County Commission doubles as the board of equalization during early summer.

Assessment notices to county property owners are legally due out by June 7. Pace said she expects to mail them out by sometime next week.

Local property owners will have until June 28 to appeal their assessments to the county. Immediately after that, the commissioners will step into their dual role as the board of equalizations. The board's consideration of property-value assessment appeals will run through July 12.

The county's final assessed value is set once the board of equalizations has heard every appeal and ruled on their merits. Changes to individual assessed values are reflected in the final assessed value of all properties in Blaine County. Property owners can also appeal their assessed values to the state if they feel the county board of equalization has ruled incorrectly.

Last year, the state overruled four of the county's assessments out of about 400 appeals.

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Blaine County saw its peak in total assessed values in 2008, when the overall value climbed to about $12.4 billion.

Last year at this time, Pace said she hadn't witnessed a drop in assessed values from year to year since she took over as county assessor in 1998.

There were some exceptions to the overall 11 percent decline seen at the county level this year. In a few spots, there were no declines. In others, the decline was much steeper, by as much as 30 percent.

Hardest hit areas of the county included south Woodside, China Gardens and Della View in Hailey. County assessors are calling those spots "foreclosure areas" because the vast majority of home sales there are either foreclosures or at foreclosure prices because homeowners are seeking to sell fast.

The declining property values do not necessarily mean that Blaine County property owners will see a related decline in their property tax bill.

State law sets a 3 percent cap on increases in municipal and county property tax collections. Because rising or dropping values in turn increase or decrease the county's taxable base, the levies set by the county, cities, school district, fire districts and ambulance districts rise or fall depending on each year's assessments. The rate paid by taxpayers may go down. However, owners of properties whose assessments are raised will in most cases pay higher taxes.

There was at least some humor inserted into the discussion of the dismal news when Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary asked Pace to repeat her statement about when the peak of the county's total assessed value took place, in 2008. Apparently, that coincided with McCleary's purchase of a home in the Ketchum area.

"I'm just trying to confirm that I bought my house at exactly the wrong time," she said.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com




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