Madison County’s Board of Assessors (BOA) heard from two local citizens Thursday afternoon with concerns over increases in tax appraisals. Values for Madison County structures increased countywide this year. Madison County chief appraiser Robin Baker said last week that the boost in building values was a result of more data from sales becoming available over the past year. He noted that the sales count of homes in Madison County for 2015/2016 was 186 and is 286 for 2016/17. Baker says that with more sales in the county, a clearer picture of fair-market value emerges. He pointed out that property values were frozen in place by state mandate at 2008 values for three years following the housing collapse. He said values didn’t begin to recover in Madison County until recently.

The chief appraiser said the county is required by the state to set values at 95-to-110 percent of fair market value. And because of that, he said the boost in the assessments of buildings was needed. Sales data showed that home prices had increased and that the values needed to be adjusted to be closer to fair-market value.

“I understand people don’t want to have an increase, but I try to explain to them what happened and why,” said Baker.

Former BOA member Larry Stewart spoke at the June 5 commissioners’ meeting about the appraisals and then again to the assessor board June 8. He read Baker’s explanation of the increase in the June 8 of The Journal and said it “sounded like manipulation of the numbers.”

“You’re skirting a thin line on this and sales chasing,” Stewart said to the assessors and to Baker.

Stewart said property owners saw their structure values go up but didn’t get the benefit of adjustments to the depreciation schedule. He said the age of homes should have knocked the value down some and alleviated some of the tax burden on homeowners. He said he didn’t have a problem with the overall values, but he was troubled that the depreciation hadn’t been factored in to this year’s appraisals.

“It’s just not right,” he said. “Half of the equation is done, but the other half is not.”

Neither Baker nor the assessor board responded to Stewart’s comments.

Madison County citizen John McDowell also addressed the assessors. His property went up 50 percent in value three years ago. He appealed that valuation and had it reduced to a 17-percent increase. But he said he was hit with a 40-percent increase this year. McDowell was told that the appealed value held for three years, but reverted back to the previous value after three years. McDowell said he didn’t see the value of appealing if the county could “just come back in three years and jack it up.”

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