Some Jefferson County property owners will be receiving letters from the Jefferson County Assessor's Office starting Tuesday notifying them that their assessments have been changed.

Some Jefferson County property owners will be receiving letters from the Jefferson County Assessor’s Office starting Tuesday notifying them that their assessments have been changed.

County Assessor Yvonne Humphrey said in a news release that the reappraisals are the result of a countywide project that has been going on since January 2009, and was done to insure that property values, not only in the county but also in all the counties of the state are fair, equitable and reflect current market values.

According to the news release, the last countywide reappraisal was completed in the fall of 2008.

An Arkansas law, adopted in 1999 significantly changed the time period for reappraisals and initially required that all counties reappraise every three years. That time frame was later changed to a five or three year cycle, based on the amount of growth in market value within a particular county.

The legislation, which became Act 1185, was adopted primarily to avoid excessive increases in property taxes due to long periods between reappraisal cycles. Eleven Arkansas counties are scheduled to complete their reappraisals by the end of this year.

Humphrey said in the release that her office is responsible for maintaining a list and record of fair and equitable value on all taxable real and personal property within the county. State law provides that real estate value is generally based on either the property’s market value or its “use value.”

Market value is defined as the most probable price property would bring if the property were to be offered for sale.

The Arkansas Assessment Coordination Department (ACD) is required by law to appraise real estate with the exception of “bona fide agricultural lands” at between 90 and 110 percent of the property’s estimated market value.

To determine the assessed value of property, multiply the appraised value of the property by 20 percent.

The state agency is also required to ensure that the assessment value of property in all 75 Arkansas counties are within the range required by state law.

Humphrey said in the release that an increase in an assessment historically meant an increase in property taxes, but since Amendment 79 was adopted in 2000, an incease in assessment may not necessarily mean an increase in property taxes. That amendment provided all homeowners with a $300 property tax credit on their principal place of residence and that credit was increased to $350 in 2007. If a homeowner has not certified their property as their principal place of residence, they can do so by calling the assessor’s office at 541-5344.

In addition, assessments are frozen on the principal place of residence for people age 65 and over, or those who are disabled.

Assessments on a principal place of residence can only increase for other taxpayers at a maximum rate of five percent annually until a maximum rate of 20 percent has been reached, while assessments on other property can only increase by 10 percent per year until the maximum 20 percent rate is reached.

Humphrey said some properties will see an increase in their appraised value but others may see a decrease, and the percentage of increase or decrease will not be the same for each property. The increase or decrease will be based on what the property was appraised for in the past compared to the value recorded as a result of the current appraisal.

Property taxes in Arkansas are not due and payable until October of the year following the assessment, so any changes in the 2013 real estate taxes will not be due for payment until October 2014.

The 2013 property tax rates will be determined by multiplying the millage rate in each taxing district by the 2013 taxable assessed value of the property less any property tax credits allowed by state law. Those taxes can only be estimated at the present time since millage rates are not certified by the taxing entities until later in the year.

Humphrey said that letters notifying some property owners of increases in their assessed value will be sent out in July, but no letters will be sent for people whose rates decreased or remained the same.

Those letters will list the parcel number, owner of record, a brief legal description of the property, the previous and current estimated market value, assessed and taxable values, and how a property owner can schedule a hearing with the Jefferson County Board of Equalization if they want to appeal the listed value of the property.

To schedule a hearing before the Equalization Board, call the assessor’s office. The last day to schedule a hearing to appeal the 2013 assessment will be Aug. 19.

“Please remember the Board of Equalization cannot lower your property assessment simply because you think your taxes are too high,” Humphrey said in the news release. “The Board can only adjust the value recorded for your property if there is a legitimate reason to do so.”

For more information contact Stacy Howard, appraisal manger, or Karen Stroud, chief deputy at 541-5344.