Tax values of Douglas County homes up 7% overall; see which areas had largest increase

photo by: Abobe Stock

This photo illustration depicts a range of housing prices.

Inflation is down and so too are housing sales, but Douglas County homeowners are seeing another round of increases in the home values used to calculate their property taxes.

Home values across the county increased by a median of 7.3% in 2024, according to new numbers from the county appraiser’s office.

While still an increase, it is a slightly smaller one than a year ago. Many homeowners last year saw increases of 8% or 9% in their home values, and in 2022 it was common for such increases to be 10% or more.

That may not be a lot of solace to property owners because the rising home values greatly increase the odds that their property tax bills will rise when local governments set the property tax mill levies for the 2025 budgets this summer.

Any homeowner who has a rising property tax value also will have a rising property tax bill, unless governments choose to cut their property tax mill levy rates by a corresponding amount. For example, a home that is valued at $250,000 and pays 100 mills in property taxes — a rate that is set by the county, the city, school districts and other such local governments — would owe $2,875 in property taxes. The same property, if its value increased by the median 7.3%, would owe $3,084 in property taxes, even if the property tax mill levy remained unchanged.

Local governments, in total, would need to agree to about a 7% reduction in the overall mill levy rate for such homeowners to avoid a property tax increase. While governments have approved some mill levy reductions, they haven’t been of that scale. For example, last year’s total mill levy in the city of Lawrence — meaning the city, county, school district and other miscellaneous taxing districts combined — declined by 0.6%. The largest in recent memory was in 2022, when the total Lawrence mill levy declined by 2.2%.

Local governments will set those property tax mill levies this summer, when they are crafting their budgets for 2025. State law gives most local governments — school districts being a bit of an exception — broad authority to lower or raise the property tax mill levies.

That’s not the case with taxable property values. The county appraiser can’t just set the values where he chooses. State law requires appraisers to determine for nearly all real estate the fair market value — what it would sell for if placed on the market — each year. Residential property owners pay taxes on 11.5% of that fair market value, while commercial property owners pay taxes on 25% of that fair market value.

Selling prices for homes in Lawrence have been going up, even as the number of sales has been declining. The Lawrence Board of Realtors reported that the median selling prices of homes rose 4.2% in Lawrence last year.

Appraiser Brad Eldridge doesn’t specifically explain in his latest report why the median tax value is rising by a little more than 7% when selling prices increased by about 4%. But Eldridge’s office does look at a much larger and broader set of properties when making its determinations. The Board of Realtors numbers were based on about 900 sales in Lawrence, while the appraiser’s office is looking at every home in the county, which numbers in the tens of thousands.

Eldridge, who is a longtime appraiser but is in his first year running the office, did release a significant amount of detail about his office’s findings this year. Eldridge broke the data down geographically, and to some extent, by residential type. He also provided the range of price movement that his office saw for each property type. In case you have forgotten, the median is the point at which half of the properties were above and half were below, so results for individual properties could be much different than the median. In the chart below, I list the median, and then provide a range, which represents the average price change for the bottom 10% of properties and the average price change for the top 10% of properties.

• East Lawrence: Median: up 7.7%; Range: up 2.9% to 12.4%

• West Lawrence: Median: up 6.5%; Range: up 2.4% to 11.5%

• Lawrence townhomes: Median: up 8.6%; Range: up 2.8% to 13%

• Condos: Median: up 4.6%; Range: down 7.7% to up 12.2%

• Eudora: Median: up 7.6%; Range: up 2.7% to 12.5%

• Baldwin City: Median: up 9.3%; Range: up 3.6% to 14.7%

• Lecompton: Median: up 4.3%; Range: up 0.4% to 9.0%

• Rural areas: Median: up 7.1%; Range: up 2.1% to 12.8%

As you can see, the numbers show the Baldwin City housing market was particularly hot, and East Lawrence homes were growing in price more rapidly than West Lawrence homes. The condo market across the county also appeared somewhat volatile by the numbers.

The appraiser’s office also is responsible for coming up with tax values for commercial properties. Overall, the office determined commercial property values had a median increase of 6.7% for the year. Findings for specific property types include:

• Downtown properties: Median: up 6.0%; Range: up 4.1% to 25.8%

• Fast food restaurants: Median: up 2.5%; Range: up 1.8% to 52.9%

• Banks: Median: up 2.4%; Range: up 1.9% to 4.8%

• Hotels: Median: up 5.0%; Range: up 2.5% to 8.9%

• Industrial: Median: up 15.9%; Range: up 8.0% to 18.9%

• Large retail buildings: Median: up 4.2%; Range: up 2.8% to 11.5%

• General retail: Median: up 4.2%; Range: up 2.6% to 20.1%

• General restaurants: Median: up 3.7%; Range: up 1.6% to 28%

A final number produced by the appraiser’s office is the grand total, so to speak. The office is responsible for determining the total assessed valuation of the county, which basically is the taxable value of all property in the county. It takes into account not just how much property values have increased, but also captures any new construction that has happened in the county.

For 2024, that total currently stands at about $1.9 billion, and is up 8.3% from a year ago. This is the number that local governments care greatly about because if a government’s overall assessed valuation increases, that means its property tax collections are set to increase, whether it raises the tax rate or not.

The numbers aren’t final, though, partly because property owners still have a window of time to protest their property values. Property owners have until 5 p.m. on March 29 to request a hearing to protest their tax value. Property owners who request a hearing will receive one, and should be prepared to present information about why they think the county’s appraiser has valued the property incorrectly. That information could include anything from the county being mistaken about the size of the property (listing it as a five bedroom when it is a three bedroom, for example) to information about selling prices of other homes similar to yours.

Property owners can request a hearing by filling out a form that should have recently arrived via the mail. The county sent out change of value notices on Feb. 28 to all property owners in the county. That form shows last year’s value and the proposed value for 2024. On the back of that sheet is the form to complete to request a hearing.


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