Residential property out west and commercial property on south Iowa Street are generally showing increases in value.
Douglas County Commissioner Mark Buhler smiled suspiciously at the man approaching the lectern.
"Hello, Marion. What have you been doing?" he asked.
"You'll find out in a week," County Appraiser Marion Johnson retorted. Both men laughed nervously.
The annual case of raw nerves at the county courthouse will arrive late this week. On Friday, Johnson will take about 30,000 property value notices to the post office. Each will state how much a parcel gained or lost in value since last year. Riding on that number is how much each taxpayer will pay in 1994 property taxes.
Taxpayers should brace themselves, Johnson said. The market is strong, and on average, values have gone up.
"A lot of people just fail to grasp how strong the market is right now," Johnson said.
He asked that property owners talk to real estate experts before blowing up, and he added, "If they went to sell their house, is that what they expect to get out of it?"
Johnson said anyone with questions can call the appraiser's office at numbers listed on the valuation notices. Mistakes are inevitable. Three phone lines will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting Monday.
He told commissioners about some of the changes since last year:
- Appraisers tended to value lower-end residential property too high last year. At the same time, they valued higher-end property too low, he said. The office has worked to correct those errors based on recent sales data. Consequently, many property values out west will go up.
"Some of them have gone up substantially," Johnson said. "You may receive some phone calls."
- Increased sales activity among properties immediately east of the Kansas University campus has driven up values there.
- Agricultural land will maintain 1993 values. However, the state Board of Tax Appeals will conduct a hearing March 2 on whether those values will change. If so, new change of value notices will be sent out to affected property owners.
- For the most part, commercial values remained steady. Some commercial values on south Iowa Street have been pushed up because of a flurry of activity there.
- Appraisers took flood damage into account when appropriate. However, "We didn't see too much decline (in values) in North Lawrence, even with the flooding," Johnson said.
- Trend data show that on average, residential property has gained 5 percent in value a year. Johnson stressed that not every property would have a 5 percent increase. Some would be higher, others would be lower.
- New state statutes will require appraisers to audit about 60 businesses for personal property this year. This year's targets will be fast-food restaurants and motels. Managers will need to have income and expense ledgers handy, and appraisers will conduct physical inspections of the businesses as well.
Buhler thanked Johnson for the information.
"OK," Buhler said. "We'll get under the mattresses next week."