Appraisal hikes draw taxpayers' ire

Area residents who received their property tax appraisals this year may find themselves with a case of sticker shock, as officials with the Howard County Appraisal District say higher market values are driving up valuations in the Crossroads area.According to Ronny Babcock, chief appraiser for the appraisal district, said his office is already seeing a high volume of property owners filing protests regarding their appraisals.“We've had quite a few file protests so far this year,” Babcock said. “The deadline to file a protest is normally May 31, however, we have to allow at least 30 days from the time the appraisal is sent out. So the majority of property owners have already seen the deadline to file pass, while a few others who received their appraisals a few days later will see it pass in the next few days.”Babcock said many of the protests have already been settled, but some property owners have decided to take the matter to the appraisal district's board of adjustments.“When a protest is filed we have an appraiser look at the property in question and then compare it to the market value of other properties,” Babcock said. “Once we've done that, we look at any discrepancies in the appraisal and then contact the owner with that information. Right now it's taking approximately 30 days from the time the protest is filed until we're contacting the property owners with our findings.“Once we've got all of our information, we contact the owner to discuss a settlement. Quite a few owners have already settled their protests, but some have decided to take the matter to the board.”Babcock said one of the reasons many property owners are seeing a sudden jump in their appraisals is because it's been approximately four years since there have been any increases.“Most property in Howard County hasn't seen an increase in their appraisal since 2008,” Babcock said. “Despite the fact an increase hasn't been applied in all that time, property values have been steadily increasing each year. So, we're not looking at a situation where there was suddenly a leap in property value this year. Instead, we're looking at the increases from the past four years finally catching up to us.”Babcock said a change in the appraisal schedule also means the increases won't be felt in just one area or district.“Because we've changed the schedule, we've seen increases in all of the school districts, not just one,” Babcock said. “So, this increase is effecting the entire appraisal district, not just parts here and there. The change in schedules matches the market. We're required by law to valuate the property at 100 percent of market value, which is what we've done.”Babcock said the increase in appraisals is a result of the shifts in the market value of the property, not improvements that have been made.“On an individual basis, of course there are some properties that saw increases because of improvements. However, the vast majority of the increases we're seeing this year area a result of the market value,” Babcock said.For more information on property appraisals, contact the Howard County Appraisal District at 432-263-8301.