San Juan County Assessor discusses property questionnaire, valuations, bills

A letter from the San Juan County assessors office is requesting information on properties in the county.
The county assessor is an elected position. The assessor's office does evaluations of properties in San Juan County to determine the county tax rate. Property taxes in the county help fund the school district, the county, cities, cemeteries, and water conservatory districts.
County Assessor Rick Meyer spoke with Red Rock 92.7 FM on May 24. Meyer answered questions regarding the letter, commercial property valuations, and preliminary tax bills.
San Juan County Property owners received a letter from the Assessor's office in April asking residents to fill out two forms.
Meyer explained one form is a result of recent state legislation, while the other is a result of the application of a new software system.
In recent years Utah state legislation specified that counties mail out home declarations to property owners.
The county assessors' office mailed out around 3,000 of the forms requesting that homeowners fill out the form to verify if the property is a primary or secondary residence.
Meyer explains making sure that a residency form is correct can have a significant impact on homeowners.
“If you’re a primary resident, most people in the county are primary residents, they receive a 45% reduction in the taxable value of that property.”
In addition to residency declarations the letter also asked for property owners help as the county transitions to a new software program, provided to the county for free by the state.
The form asks residents about their home’s square footage, number of rooms and bathrooms, number of stories, and other information about the property.
After receiving the letter many county residents have asked why they should share additional information about their homes when it could impact their property taxes.
“We wanted to make sure information that we were putting into the new software program was correct, so it’s just a matter of making sure we have the correct information on your home. It doesn't necessarily increase the value of your property, but it makes sure we have things correct and right.”
Meyer explains with or without property owners' information the county office has to evaluate every property in the county at least once every five years.
“If we don’t receive the information then we may have to go door to door and collect the information the best we can. If I just look from the street view of your home I may not get everything correct. I may be making too many assumptions with that. It’s good to have the correct information.”
Meyer says in the weeks since sending out the notices the county assessors' office has received lots of helpful information.
“Lots of people came back and say this home no longer exists on the property or this trailer house no longer exists or you got this wrong and that wrong. It’s a great thing for the county because we are trying to save the county money, trying to make things correct, and looking out for citizens as well.”
San Juan County residents anxiety regarding the assessment of their property is likely related to the increased valuation of properties last year as a result of an increasingly expensive housing market.
Meyer explains last year's factoring related to the annual sales ratio study which looks at sales within the county.
“We take that information and we match it to what we have on the record, and because of the high prices that people were selling their properties for, our valuations were about 60% low. So across San Juan County we had to make that valuation, it’s called factoring, so Blanding went up 34%, Monticello 35%, the County wide 21%, and Spanish Value 41% in values, just values. That met the state law.”
Meyer explained that if the county assessor did not make those valuations the state could increase valuations from 95-percent of market value to 100-percent.
The county has been working to rebalance the tax roll however, this year the county hired an outside firm familiar with rural Utah counties to assess commercial properties in San Juan County for the first time since 2012.
Meyer explains the county will receive valuations of those commercial properties which often carry a larger tax load than residential properties.
“All these valuations come into the county and then the state of Utah looks at those valuations and determines how much money is needed for the different entities to function. Blanding city needs so much money to function, the county needs so much money to function, the school district needs so much money. They’ll take that evaluation, so commercial properties, residential properties, centrally assessed, and the state of Utah (...) and they’ll set a tax rate.” 
Tax rolls closed in May and property owners will get the preliminary notice of their tax bill in July. 
“You’ll look at that and if you see anything that needs to be changed. We go to board of equalization at the end of August. We make the changes and adjustments needed, and then your final tax notice will come out in October. So it’s very important that people look at their evaluations.”

San Juan Record

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