Recently, the Saline County Assessor's Office mailed 4,691 impact notices to residents countywide, informing them of a change in their property values.
These notices are the result of residential property reassessments, which the assessor's office has been conducting for the past several months, County Assessor Margaret Pond said.
A reassessment is required every odd-numbered year by the Missouri state constitution.
To determine a residential property's value, assessors follow a complicated formula, first measuring the size of the lot on which a house sits, and then the house itself. Values are given based on the house's age, what materials it is composed of and whether it has a basement, among other things.
Property values are also determined by sending sales letters to the buyers of recently sold homes. In these letters, assessors request information about the home and the price paid for it.
Once the market value of a property is determined, following the procedures above, its assessed value can be calculated. For residential property, the assessed value is 19 percent of market value.
According to 2009 reassessment figures, many properties are increasing in assessed value, though this doesn't necessarily mean that they are "worth" more than they were two years ago.
"We have not been up to market value" in most calculations for quite some time, Pond said.
And, like many parts of the country before the housing bubble burst, "Houses in Marshall are selling for more than we have on them," she said, meaning more than their recorded value.
In assessment calculations, the assessor's office is also using a new edition of the "cost book," which provides values for anything from a house's roof construction to its basement conditions and more. The old book was from 1980, so its figures were lower than current prices.
Additionally, the assessor's office has a new chart to calculate the depreciation of residential properties.
Pond realizes that these increases in property values are inopportune, as they come during a time of economic recession.
"This's been a really difficult time to do this," she said.
Margaret Alfrey, who also works in the assessor's office, said, "I feel so sorry for these people," especially those affected who live on limited incomes. She added that she herself received two impact notices.
But Pond said her office is just following guidelines from the Missouri State Tax Commission.
"They pretty much told us where we need to be," she said.
If the assessor's office had not increased property values upon reassessment, the office could have received a letter of noncompliance, which would mandate the property values to be corrected.
Pond reminded the public that her office does not tax county residents and that, theoretically, taxes do not directly increase with assessed values.
"We do not set tax levies," she said. "All we do is put value on your entities."
Pond said political subdivisions that levy taxes, like school districts and municipalities, should revise their tax rates after reassessment occurs. According to the tax commission's Web site, the subdivisions are allowed increased revenues to account for inflation and new construction, but must reduce rates after that.
Residents who would like to contest their reassessed property values are encouraged to visit the assessor's office at 101 E. Arrow Street, #203, or call 660-886-3111.
Alfrey said they should provide documentation to show the correct value of their property, such as an appraisal or insured value.