July 1, 2010 10:17:00 AM
The Oktibbeha County Tax Assessor''s Office is in the middle of evaluating property values in Starkville and Oktibbeha County, but the assessments are raising eyebrows among some residents.
"People are getting really riled up," said Green Oaks resident Mark Henry, who also owns property outside of Starkville in Oktibbeha County.
Henry said his property in Green Oaks was valued at $100,540. That''s a 23-percent increase since it was evaluated four years ago, he said.
Henry says he and other Green Oaks residents believe their properties are being evaluated at values more than what the properties are worth. With higher property values come higher property taxes, he says.
"It''s basically another form of a tax increase for us that (the city and county) don''t have to approve," Henry said.
Considering the national economic downturn over the past two years, Henry believes property values and home sales are down all over the country, including here in the Golden Triangle.
County Tax Assessor Pat Kight, however, begs to differ. The assessors'' evaluations of properties are based on nearby home sales and other factors, Kight said. Home sales and, subsequently, property values throughout Starkville and Oktibbeha County are on the rise, she said.
"I know that some people come in and say ''Well, with the economy like it is, values have not gone up,''" Kight said. "Here in Oktibbeha County, that''s not true. We have sales information telling us the recession has not hit these properties here as hard. People are still building, people are still buying ..."
Additionally, the Tax Assessor''s office evaluates properties at 85- to 90-percent of market value, Kight said. Most property owners could "probably" sell their properties and get more for it than the county''s assessed value, she said.
"We try to keep (property tax evaluations) as low as we can in order for it to pass the judgment of the State Tax Commission," Kight said. "I''m not trying to hurt anybody. I''m just doing what I''m required to do by the Tax Commission. I understand some people are upset and are going to be upset. Now, if they come in and talk to us, we''ll explain it to them and I think most of them are going to understand what''s going on."
The Tax Assessor''s Office is holding hearings today from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for property owners who want to challenge the Tax Assessor''s property evaluations. As of Wednesday, Henry had scheduled a meeting with the Tax Assessor''s Office to discuss the values of his properties.
If property owners are unable to attend the hearings at the Tax Assessor''s Office today, the office will attempt to meet with those property owners at a later time, Kight said.
"If we don''t get to see all the people, we''re not just going to cut if off and say we''re not going to see anybody else," Kight said. "If they have a legitimate reason, we''ll meet with them."