The Property Assessor
|With the office of Property Assessor on the ballot,
it's important that folks realize that this is probably one of the most
important elected jobs in the county. It is also probably the worst
elected jobs in the county. I'm not sure why anybody would really want
the job. The Property Assessor is most always in a no win situation.
The Assessor doesn't set the tax rate, that's the job of the County Commission. The Assessor doesn't collect the taxes, that's the job of the Trustee. So what does the Assessor do? A lot.
The Assessor and staff determine the value of your property whereas the tax rate applies and taxes are collected that fund the entire county operations including the schools. Here's the problem. The Assessor is bound by law to work within the parameters set down by the state. In fact the state sets nearly all the requirements of our assessments. The state takes in all the local, regional and state information pertaining to property values, chunks it into a computer and comes out with what property values for any area of the county will be. Their data is based on a number of variables not the least of which is "comps" or sales of comparable properties.
Loudon County, for instance, is made up of a number of different zones each carrying a different formula to determine property values. For instance, lake front property in Tellico Village and other areas will have a far higher market value applied to properties than let's say the values of properties down in Stockton Valley or Philadelphia. This is because the sales data based on actual sales of properties in the areas reflect the vast differences of the cost of property in these areas. A main channel lake lot could sale anywhere from a half million to maybe a million dollars. A whole acre in the other mentioned areas could sale anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to ten or twelve thousand dollars per acre. You can see the vast difference.
The state takes this kind of sales data along with other information and determines fair market values for the different zones. I'm really simplifying the process but this is the jest of the operation.
All that said, the Property Assessor must work with the information generated by the state, at least the honest ones do. We well remember a former Assessor who thought he could just hand out big breaks to his developer buddies and others and had it been anybody else would have gone to jail but that's another story.
If you have a complaint with your assessment, you can follow the appeals process and if errors in your assessment are found, the assessor can make adjustments. It's always possible that mistakes in square footage, or conditions or even the zone you're in could have been made. But even those changes will rarely result in much more than a minimal adjustment.
Again, the Assessor is usually in a no win situation. Property owners usually feel their properties are valued to high yet in most cases the Assessor can't help them without violating the law and their oath of office. That being the case, if any candidate tells you definitely that they will do something to help lower your property tax bill, they either have no clue about the job or plan to work beyond the constraints of the law.
I personally know all three of the Assessor candidates and know them to be upright and honest people all be it, current interim Assessor Mr. Mike Campbell is the only candidate with a background in property assessing. I'm confident any of the three would do the best they could in the job.
Let the race begin and may the best candidate win.