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Property tax bills could be late

Harrison County residents will most likely see their tax bills delivered late this year. Usually, tax bills are mailed out at the end of March and include amounts due for a May 10 and Nov. 10 collection dates.
However, Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe said this year that scenario is unlikely, and it is hard to estimate when the bills will be mailed.
‘We’re hoping before the middle of summer,’ she said.
However, late tax bills have more of an affect than simply causing residents to wait to get their bills. If they are sent out late, the first tax receipts from the state will also be late to school districts and local governments, which could have serious impacts on the amount of operating revenue those entities have. It may even cause the school districts to borrow money, something Harrison County’s three school districts have done in the past, but it comes with interest costs.
The delay this year is due to a state-ordered change in the way counties assess property. The new ‘trending’ analysis is based on market values. The state moved to a market-based system in 2002 after a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1998. Similar systems are already used in 48 other states.
Wolfe said the county is still waiting for their ‘trending’ data to be accepted by the state. Once the data is accepted, the county is looking at a three-month time period before tax bills can be mailed.
Reassessment notices should still be mailed to residents although it is up to the Harrison County Assessor’s office to make that decision. The only other option is to not send them to residents, something Clark County is considering. If they are not mailed, residents will still have 45 days to appeal their assessment after receiving their tax bill.
‘All of us have been trying to work diligently since last year to try and get these assessed values to the state,’ Wolfe said of the offices of the auditor, assessor and treasurer.
The assessor’s office sent the assessed values to the state last summer, well before the deadline, but the state had problems with some of the information. County officials were not aware of problems the state had with the data until recently and have worked to correct them.
Wolfe said her office is currently waiting on the data to be approved by the state and cannot move forward until they accept it. After that, the county has to approve exemptions, send a net assessment to the state in order to get a tax rate back from state officials and then send an estimate of the county’s taxes to the state for approval before printing bills.
‘There is a lot of leg work, a lot of tedious work that goes into (calculating the tax bills),’ Wolfe said.
The new trending analysis is being used for the first time this year in all counties to base the county’s property on currently market values. Instead of reassessing real estate every 10 years, as was done under the old system, annual adjustments will be made to adjust tax bills based on sales. According to the Indiana Dept. of Local Government Finance, Harrison County residents could see an increase or a decrease in their tax bills after the annual adjustment each year under the new system.
The annual adjustments are calculated by comparing the prior year assessment with current sales data from a neighborhood (groups of similar assessed homes or properties; location does not matter). Using annual adjustments, assessors will adjust property values every year to reflect market values. Officials will use sales data from state-required sales disclosure forms completed during every real-estate transaction to calculate how much or how little to adjust the assessed value of a property. The amount of change ‘ positive or negative ‘ is then applied to all assessed values of properties of that type in the area. After the annual adjustment factor is applied, the property value is considered adjusted for local market conditions.
Mitch Frazier, DLGF public information officer, said county residents now can see what a similar home sold for and therefore have an idea on what their assessed value will be based.
‘Now there is transparency in the system where I don’t think there was before,’ Frazier said during a meeting with local government officials last week.