Property valuation notices will go into the mail at the end of the month.
Douglas County homeowners still have an appreciating investment although the rate of growth in property values has eased off the torrid pace reported a year ago.
A study of residential properties that sold twice from 1993 through 1995 showed that real estate values grew as much as 7 percent, down from 8.5 percent in a corresponding study of sales from 1992 through 1994.
``Even though the median indicates 6 to 7 percent increase, most of them will see an increase of less than 5 percent,'' said Douglas County Appraiser Marion Johnson.
``Some may go up 1 percent. Some may go up 7 or 8 percent or more,'' he said.
Johnson will brief Douglas County commissioners on the valuation process when they meet at 9 a.m. Monday in the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts.
Johnson said the strong real estate market means valuations for tax purposes will rise on average less than 5 percent. That's down from 8.5 percent last year.
The appraiser's office will mail this year's change of value notices to homeowners on Feb. 29. Those new valuations will be one component in figuring the taxes that will be due Dec. 20, 1996, and June 20, 1997.
Although property owners are welcome to appeal their valuations, the Douglas County appraiser's staff continues to receive high marks for accuracy from the state Division of Property Valuation. The state compares the sales price of real estate with the values the county appraiser's staff placed on those properties.
During 1994, the latest year reviewed by the Division of Property Valuation, Johnson and his staff achieved a median assessment ratio of 95.2, down from 98 a year earlier. With a score of 100 being perfect, those scores suggest that Johnson's staff has a tendency to undervalue properties.
Douglas County Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said he was satisfied with the performance of the appraiser's office and would stand by Johnson, despite criticism from taxpayers who believe the staff appraises property too high.
``I would prefer to see us on the low side rather than the high side,'' McElhaney said of the accuracy score.
Some of the sharpest increases in this year's valuations may occur in rural areas, Johnson said. Although the average value increase in Baldwin, Eudora and unincorporated Douglas County was 3 percent to 4 percent, the steep prices being paid for residences and homesites in the county is lifting the valuations of nearby property.
``What people are paying for similar-type properties is what causes us to value properties,'' he said. ``Rural houses with five to 10 acres, I have a hard time believing what they've sold for. We're not even close sometimes.''
Johnson also noted that this is the first year since 1992 that many owners of agricultural land will see an increase in valuation. All categories of crop land rose $10 an acre and some increases showed up in pastureland.
Most commercial valuations also rose, with an increase of less than 5 percent being the norm.
Once they receive their valuation notices, property owners will have until April 15 to file an appeal, although appeal hearings will begin March 18.