Commercial property values raise concerns
May 16, 2012 | 6638 views | 0 0 comments | 970 970 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the past eight months, the San Juan County Assessors office has completed a comprehensive valuation of commercial properties in the county. The initial work created a firestorm among some property owners as it increased the valuation of the properties by roughly $11.5 million.

If the preliminary figures were adopted as proposed, it would signal a dramatic increase in property values for many commercial property owners.

Assessor Howard Randall reports that this is the first comprehensive countywide revaluation of commercial property of which he is aware. These assessments are the responsibility of Randall’s office and represent the majority of local “Main Street” businesses.

Randall’s office contracted with fully-licensed state officials to complete the revaluation. They canvassed the county in October, 2011 to visit the commercial properties.

When the work was complete, Randall mailed a copy of the proposed valuations to the affected property owners, dated April 2, and asked them to call or come into the office. Randall reports that many property owners came in to discuss the valuations.

Randall said that the appeal process has resulted in a decrease from the initial valuation “in the majority of cases.” Since the tax roll closes May 22, the appeal process is still ongoing.

Randall roughly estimates that the initial $11.5 million increase will be decreased to approximately $5 million. While the initial figure has been cut in half, this still represents an estimated ten percent increase in the total value of locally-assessed commercial properties in the county.

Randall said that he accepted the state assistance while retaining the ability to adjust the valuations, if needed. Randall continues to encourage local property owners to come in if they have questions. Property owners should visit Randall as soon as possible.

The bulk of the initial increase came in Blanding and a private property within the Navajo Reservation. Commercial property values in the Monticello area were mostly flat. More than half of the increase (about $6.6 million) is for properties in the Blanding area.

Randall said that while the values of many of the newer properties in the county “were right on,” a large number of older properties, many in the Blanding area, had dramatic adjustments. A number of the properties increased from 40 to 400 percent in the initial valuation.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is leading the charge against the process, arguing that it is absurd to that values continue to increase dramatically in this economy.

At the May 14 meeting of the San Juan County Commission, Lyman said, “I have talked to most of the assessors in our 14 neighboring counties and there is not one of them that has increasing values. San Juan County is the only one that continues to increase. It defies the trends in the state, defies the trends nationally.”

Lyman added, “Since 2005 until now, we have seen an 80 percent increase in value across the county and a two percent increase in rate. When the state says if values go up, then rates go down, I say show me! Prove it. I have never seen it. If it’s true it doesn’t apply in San Juan County for some reason.”

Lyman said that when values increase ten to 15 percent, most business owners simply pull out a checkbook. However, when values increase by 400 percent, many feel that it is time to call an attorney.

Randall reports that many changes to the preliminary valuation are due to three factors: the initial visits checked just the exterior of many properties; several properties have mixed commercial and residential use; and accumulated depreciation may have changed the value of some properties.

Commercial properties will be revalued, with residential and real estate, on a five-year cycle.

This process focused on commercial properties assessed directly from Randall’s office. In contrast, the State of Utah directly handles the assessment of large commercial properties, such as oil, gas, mining, extraction, and other infrastructure.

These centrally-assessed properties represent about 70 percent of the total value of county properties. In fact, about ten properties account for roughly half of total county valuation.

While the estimated $5 million increase in commercial valuation may be a heavy burden for the impacted property owners, it is a drop in the bucket for the entire value of county properties. The total value of San Juan County properties is expected to exceed $1 billion. A $5 million increase is half of one percent of the total value of county properties.
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