Every two years the Franklin County Assessor’s office evaluates 75,000 parcels throughout the county. Of those reassessments this year, about 45,000 parcels increased in value and those property owners will pay more taxes.
Since value change notices arrived in mailboxes, County Assessor Tom Copeland says the phones in the assessors office in Union are ringing off the hook.
“The phones start ringing at 8 a.m.,” Copeland said. “If you have a question, call. It’s our job to help you.”
On notices mailed out this year, Copeland added a paragraph reminding property owners his office is not responsible for the actual amount of property taxes they will pay this year.
The paragraph reads: “The Assessor determines the value only: the taxing entities determine tax rates.
If you feel your taxes are too high, then you should involve yourself in the budget process of the taxing entities on your tax bill and make your voice heard at their budget meetings.”
Copeland defends the statement on the notices and reminds residents to come to the source for the correct explanation instead of buying in to rumors.
“If someone wants to ask questions they need to come to the right source,” Copeland said. “We’ve been here a long time. We’re not going to beg people to contact us, but if they do the calls will be answered with courtesy and answers given in a professional manner.”
Copeland added about 30,000 properties in the county did not go up in value, and even as some property values are increasing, they are still not back to the same values they were before the real estate crash in 2008.
“The foreclosures back then were disastrous,” Copeland said. “Property values had gone down since then, maybe not as much as people realize.”
He explained in addition to physically inspecting all 75,000 parcels for improvements or deterioration, the county uses a mass appraisal system that compares the sale prices of similar properties in similar areas to help determine rising or falling property values.
“We had a decline in sales in 2008, 2009 and 2010,” Copeland said. “It stabilized in 2012 and we’ve seen an increase in the last two years.”
There also is a check and balance system in place to make sure assessments are being done properly and tax bills are calculated correctly.
The county assessor places a value on property for tax purposes. The state gives the county assessors guidelines to follow in placing values on real estate and personal property. Railroads and utilities are assessed by the state.
“The Missouri State Tax Commission monitors my work,” Copeland said. “They don’t just take our word for it. They actually go out and check parcels themselves.”
The property is assessed at a percentage of market value.
Commercial and industrial property is assessed at 32 percent; residential at 19 percent; and agricultural at 12 percent.
There are 14 school districts, seven ambulance districts, 10 fire districts, two library districts, one hospital district, four sewer districts, and five road and bridge districts that collect taxes in Franklin County.
The dramatic drop in property sales, values and foreclosures a decade ago forced many of these taxing districts to attempt to provide the same services to residents with much less money coming in.
Depending on where a taxpayer resides in the county, their home or property could fall within several of these separate taxing districts which, as Copeland has explained, have their own tax rate.
The amount each entity collects is based on a percentage of the overall value of the property and will fluctuate from year to year based on the property values.
Since many of the taxing entities saw less money coming in over the past decade, many had asked voters to increase tax rates just to keep operating budgets near the same levels they were prior to 2008.
In 2018, for the third straight year, Franklin County posted an increase in assessed valuation for personal property and real estate.
In fact, the gains last year bring the 2018 total to the highest ever assessed valuation at $1,935,406,486.
According to the early numbers, the assessed value of all real estate in the county is $1,515,147,542.
If current growth trends continue, Franklin County personal property and real estate is on a path to break the $2 billion assessed value plateau within the next three to five years.
Franklin County went over the $1 billion mark for the first time in 1999, when the total was $1,037,322,274.
Since 1990, the only years that showed slight decreases were 2015, 2013 and 2011.
The largest percentage increase in Franklin County valuations occurred in 1985, the year that the state ordered the county to have a general reassessment. The percentage increase that year was 101.7 percent, the highest in the county’s history.
Franklin County’s assessed valuation in 1950 was $41.2 million.