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February 14, 2013

County adds new construction to assessed values

NEW CASTLE — The addition of new assessed values to the tax rolls is giving Lawrence County a revenue boost.

County assessor Charles “J.R.” Hardester reported to the commissioners this week that his staff has been going out and updating assessments countywide on an ongoing basis.

Whenever a property receives a building or addition or other improvement that could change its assessed value by $2,500 or more, the assessor’s staff goes out and reassesses that property to determine its higher worth.

Then those property owners are sent a second or interim tax bill that year for the difference.

The next year, the new amount will be figured into one tax bill, Hardester said.

“The interim billing started in 2010,” Hardester said, adding they were sent to the owners of the improved properties in August and in March.

Between 2010 and 2012, the newly assessed improvements have amount to $72,043,560 in new assessed value, he said, and have generated $353,705 in taxes to the county alone.

A total of 1,447 parcels of land were assessed, he said.

“We assess any building that has had a recent increase of $2,500 or more,” Hardester said.

Although the process allows the assessor’s office to catch up on some of the assessments where construction has taken place, he said, “we never really get caught up. We try to visit every municipality at least once a year.”

The assessor’s office receives information about new building permits from the municipalities, which tells Hardester what new construction is out there.

But in some cases, such as with some farm structures, building permits are not required. In that case, it is incumbent upon the property owner to report any improvements of more than $2,500 to the assessor’s office. He said anyone who fails to do so could be fined $50 under a state assessment law enacted in 2010.

Hardester pointed out the money collected from the reassessed properties is unbudgeted, because the amount usually is not known during budget time, “so it’s extra money coming in.”

“This indicates there is some construction activity throughout the county,” commissioner chairman Dan Vogler commented. “It’s certainly not as much as we would like to see, but it is our hope that activity will increase as the economy improves.”

He noted the process of updating assessments also benefits the school districts and municipalities in the county, because they get the additional tax revenues, too.

Hardester’s office has a pictometry system that takes aerial photographs of the county when leaves are off the trees, Vogler said. Current pictures can be matched with those from a few years ago to detect new construction or additions, he explained, enabling Hardester to see where new construction is. Then he can determine whether a building permit was issued or whether there is a record of it, and he can make the appropriate and proper assessment.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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