News and notes from around town:
• It is that time of year again. Around March 1, property owners should receive change of value notices in their mail boxes. The notices tell you how much your property has changed in value from Jan. 1, 2010 to Jan. 1, 2011 — or how much it has changed at least in the eyes of the county appraiser.
County Appraiser Steve Miles says a little more than 50 percent of homeowners will see no change in value or a slight decline in value.
Here’s a chart that breaks it down for this year:
• Value decline greater than 4.01 percent: 3 percent of homes
• 2 percent to 4 percent decline: 6.9 percent of homes
• .01 percent to 1.99 percent decline: 21.2 percent of homes
• No change in value: 22.6 percent of homes
• .01 percent to 1 percent increase: 18.7 percent
• 1.01 to 3 percent increase: 16.3 percent
• 3.01 to 5 percent increase: 6.25 percent
• 5.01 percent or greater increase: 4.71 percent
Miles said his office plans to mail the change of value notices on Feb. 28. Property owners have until 5 p.m. on March 30 to file an appeal. Miles said homes in the $250,000 and below price range are most likely to see an increase in value. Upper end homes of $400,000 and more are the most likely to see a decline. But as Miles often points out, that doesn’t mean that is the way it works out for each and every home.
The values, of course, are important because they are used to calculate your property tax bills.
• Even though the appraiser’s numbers show a bit of a rebound, it was a bad year for foreclosures in Douglas County. Final numbers haven’t yet been released, but through November 217 foreclosure sales had been completed. That was up from 122 during the same period a year earlier. The more significant number, though, is that foreclosure sales represented 16 percent of all home sales made in Douglas County in 2010. (Actually, it will be higher than that once final numbers are released because we only have foreclosure numbers through November.) I’ll do some looking this week to see how those numbers compare with some other Kansas counties.
Miles, by the way, said his office did not use the sale prices of those foreclosed properties as “comparables” when setting the value for other similar sized homes. That’s because many of the foreclosed properties had been badly damaged or were missing key bathroom or kitchen fixtures. But Miles conceded that if the numbers keep growing, he may well have to consider that foreclosure sales are dragging down home values in the broader market. That certainly has happened in some major cities.
“At what level that starts to happen, that is a good question,” Miles said. “That is something I’m still struggling with.”
• Commercial real estate values in 2011 are relatively flat, Miles said. He said approximately 75 percent of all commercial real estate in Lawrence and Douglas County will either hold steady or see an increase or decrease of 1 percent or less. About 15 percent will see an increase greater than 1 percent. About 10 percent will see a decline in value of more than 1 percent.
• One last tax item: Some people have noticed that Shawnee County is changing how it sends out its change of value notices. Only property owners that actually will see an increase or decline in their value will be mailed a notice. Properties that have no change won’t be mailed a notice. The change is an effort to save on printing and mailing costs. County Administrator Craig Weinaug told me that Douglas County checked with state officials to see if it also could make such a change. The state’s Property Valuation Division, though, said Shawnee County was being allowed to make the change as a pilot project. If the project goes well, Douglas County might be approved to make the change in the future. Weinaug said it likely would save the county about $10,000 on printing and mailing costs.
“It is something we will definitely consider,” Weinaug said.
While it may save some money, there is at least one question policy makers will have to answer: Will people be adequately notified of their property’s values? Even though their property value may not have changed, property owners still will have the right to appeal their values. But if they don’t get a change of value notice in the mail, will they remember to do so? Shawnee County is being required to run some legal notices in the newspaper to remind property owners that even if they don’t get a change of value notice that they still have appeal rights.
• Plans to add new T-hangars at the Lawrence Municipal Airport are still in limbo. Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday evening declined to approve a project that would add 20 new T-hangars at the airport. City commissioners were concerned that the project would need a city subsidy of anywhere from about $65,000 to $90,000 per year for the first 12 years of its life. Commissioners told members of the city’s Aviation Advisory Board to keep looking at the project to see if there is a way to reduce the subsidy.
— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Follow him at Twitter.com/clawhorn_ljw