The first look at preliminary assessed values for 2017 offers both good and bad news for the Washington School District.
Overall the assessed values grew, but not by as much as district officials had hoped. The numbers, however, are just preliminary and could change before the year is over.
Preliminary assessed values that have been received from all three county assessors were presented at the Washington school Board meeting Wednesday night. The Washington School District takes in parts of three counties — Franklin, Warren and St. Charles.
The total assessed value at the end of 2016 was $749,986,943. In May, the district estimated that number would jump to $780,196,929. After talking with assessors, that number was revised to $763,246,823.
“Overall, our assessed values grew by a little less than 2 percent,” Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said. “We did see growth in real property assessed values, which is a sign that the real estate market and property values are improving in our area.”
VanLeer said the district was hurt by a shift of projects locally assessed to state assessed.
During construction, railroads and utilities taxes are assessed locally, VanLeer explained, but once a project is completed it shifts to state assessed.
The data provided Wednesday night shows a shift of $48 million moving to state assessed. The last time it was that high was in December 2015 when the district saw a shift of $40 million.
In 2015, when the big shift occurred, the district was “taken by surprise,” VanLeer said, and had to make some budget cuts. This time, however, other numbers are better. Because real estate and personal property numbers are trending upward, the loss of construction projects won’t have as much of an impact on the district’s finances, she said.
“The pleasant thing is, we do have some growth in assessed value even though we have a high number in projects being moved to state assessed,” she said.
VanLeer said the district is getting good data from the assessors, but is struggling to get the best data for construction projects in progress which makes planning more challenging.
“We must monitor construction while in progress as it pertains to railroad and utilities construction because when that work is complete, the AV is shifted from local AV to state AV,” VanLeer said. “We have to monitor growth while in progress carefully to ensure that when the shift occurs, we are prepared to adjust. This type of awareness allows us to manage changes in revenue as a result.”