Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Home values fall, taxes go up

Property values drop from 3 to 85 percent


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

“A Good Year” Property values have fallen for the fourth consecutive year in Blaine County, according to the county assessor. Express file photo

    Many Blaine County residents opened property tax bills this month to find that while taxes had gone up, home valuations had dropped—sharply, in some cases.
    Blaine County property values went down for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to a report from Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace in June.
    Valuations were based on home sales in the valley from Jan. 2, 2011, to Jan. 1, 2012.
    Pace said in June that most county residents saw a decrease in their property values, ranging from 3 to 85 percent. A few—enclaves in the north valley and on Bradford Road—saw increases.
    The total property valuation for all property in the county dropped by 11 percent in 2012, down to $8.3 billion from last year’s $9.3 billion. Total property valuations are down 33 percent from the county’s peak valuation at $12.4 billion in 2008.
    The most significant drops were in Bellevue and the Woodside area of Hailey. Gannett and Picabo also experienced definite decreases.
    But though property valuations have dropped, many taxing district’s budgets have remained steady or even increased.
    In August, the cities of Hailey and Ketchum raised the amount of property taxes they will be collecting for fiscal 2013 by the maximum amount allowed by law, though Bellevue, Carey and Sun Valley did not.
    The Blaine County Ambulance District also took an increase as part of a 15-year plan to begin replacing vehicles on a regular basis, and the county took an allowed 3 percent increase as well.
    However, even in the districts that did not increase levy rates, budgets remained the same.
    According to Pace, the districts have a set amount of revenue that they plan on during the course of a given fiscal year. With a smaller tax base caused by dropping values, the levy rate—or the amount of taxes weighed on each dollar of a property’s value—may go up, even if the districts did not take any of their allowable 3 percent increases.
    For example, though the Hailey Cemetery District did not increase its budget, the amount of taxes charged on each $100,000 of property per year rose from $11.40 in 2011 to $13.80 in 2012 because total property valuation in that district fell.
    Another factor in the increase in taxes for many property owners is a drop in the maximum homeowner’s exemption from $92,040 last year to $83,974 this year.
    Homeowners can apply for an exemption from taxation for half their home’s value up to that cap, which is determined by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. As a result, homeowners whose properties are worth more than $167,948 may find that they are being taxed on more of their home’s value this year than the year before.
    All of this adds up to many residents’ paying more in property taxes. For example, a set of property tax bills from 2011 and 2012 for a home in Della View subdivision in Hailey shows an increase of $160.70 over last year’s $1,601 tax bill.
    The home is also worth $18,137 less, and despite the drop in the homeowner’s exemption, has a taxable value of $10,071 less than in 2011. The taxes also do not include the Blaine Manor levy, which was charged on last year’s property taxes but not on the bills for this year.
    The first half of property tax bills are due Dec. 20, and the second half is due on June 20.
    Pace said hardship exemptions can be applied for at any time, but it’s typically for the current tax year and is rare.
    “Not a lot of people do take advantage of that, because you really do have to be in a hardship situation,” she said, adding that the process involves a long application and a public hearing in front of the county commissioners.
    “You have to basically tell us your life story,” she said.
    Property owners may apply to the county for a hardship exemption. For more information, call the Assessor’s Office at 788-5535.


Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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