From the Wall Street Journal:
Homeowners Wage a Tax Rebellion
Rising Property-Value Assessments Drive Up Appeals as House Prices Decline
By JEFF D. OPDYKE
April 28, 2007; Page B1
Falling home prices and rising property-tax assessments are fueling a grass-roots tax rebellion.
From coastal Florida to the shores of Hawaii, homeowners are lodging record numbers of appeals, fighting against rising assessments that are, in many cases, pushing up annual tax payments significantly.
The problem: Tax assessments didn’t keep pace with soaring property values in recent years. Now, assessments are catching up at the worst possible time, just as property prices soften. In theory, municipalities are supposed to roll back tax rates to offset rising property assessments. But many don’t do it regularly, or do so to a lesser degree than they should, says Kenneth Wilkinson, the appraiser for Lee County.
“In today’s market, I’d be lucky to get within $30,000 or $40,000 of my assessed value,” says Jack Shearer, a real-estate broker in Fort Wayne, Ind., who a month ago began the process of appealing a recent reassessment that valued his home at $245,000. Mr. Shearer says he brokered the $185,000 sale of a house in his neighborhood four months ago, yet the assessed value on that house recently came in at close to $220,000.
That is leading to “sticker shock,” says Stacey O’Day, Allen County’s assessor. The system “is capturing in one swoop the increase in market value that happened over five years.”
It is happening despite the fact that lawmakers in states such as Florida, New Jersey and Nebraska are proposing to cut property taxes or cap increases, or are offering rebate checks to homeowners to take some of the sting out of rising property reassessments.