Property valuations worry residents

Payson Roundup
Friday, March 9, 2007
Michael Maresh

Payson homeowner Paul Penning got a shock recently when he learned the assessed limited property valuation of his three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home jumped $22,000.

Home valuations were sent out Feb. 15 and Penning wasn't the only one in northern Gila County to be taken off guard by an increased assessment.

After new valuation notices went out to all property owners a few weeks ago, Gila County Assessor Dale Hom said his office has had a flurry of calls.

Like Penning, many worry how that's going to impact property taxes.

The valuation figures will be used later in the year when government entities calculate property tax rates.

Penning expects the calculations will be bad news.

"I do not know what the tax bill will be, but it will (go) up, " he said.

Larry Huffer, chief appraiser for the county, said the 2007 valuation for the county is $4.53 million, while the previous year, the valuation was $4.12 million.

Hom is quick to emphasize that a tax increase isn't a certainty because tax levies have not yet been determined. And, he noted, the assessor does not set tax rates.

He said seven entities can levy property taxes, including the city, county and school district.

"We just place a value on the home," Hom said. "You cannot project what those entities need."

Hom said homeowners can always appeal their valuation.

Penning said he tried to appeal his property valuation last year, but his family income was too high to qualify for a senior-citizen benefit.

Senior citizens can have home valuations frozen if they file an application with the county assessor before Sept. 1. However, three conditions must be met.

• Arizona residents must be in their primary residence for at least two years.

• At least one of the residents of the home must be 65.

• The income from all sources cannot exceed the following amounts -- $29,904 for a single homeowner and $37,380 for a home owned by two or more people.

The income source for the previous three years is used to determine if the homeowner qualifies for the valuation freeze.

C.W. Smith saw his assessed valuation increase by 27 percent this year.

"Certainly, I was surprised," he said.

Smith said the new valuation could mean that he'll pay $540 more in taxes this year, though the exact tax amount has yet to be determined.

"If I am paying $2,000 now, I will be paying $540 more, and that is too much, because most of us are on a fixed income," he said.

Smith, 78, has too much income to qualify for the senior valuation benefit.

"I wouldn't win (an appeal) so there is no use in spinning my wheels for nothing," Smith said. "I think it's overboard. I did not think my home would go up more than 10 percent."

The assessed valuation of his home increased from $82,000 to $105,000 for this year.

"That is a pretty good jump to the home," he said. "I have not done anything to the home. I just live here. I think there is a problem."

Homeowners have until April 16 to appeal the assessed valuations of their homes. They must fill out an appeal application at the assessor's office, located at 201 W. Frontier St.