GERING — The two freshman members of the Scotts Bluff County Board both made property taxation a part or their platforms. Both learned more about it during the just-completed valuation protest hearings.
About 250 property owners protested their valuations in three all-day hearings last week.
“I estimate we granted valuation relief to about 90 percent of the people who came in,” said District III Commissioner Charlie Knapper. “We worked the numbers really hard but had to stay within the 92-100% range of market value set by the state for residential and commercial properties.”
According to Knapper, the board wanted to help property stay within the low end of the scale for valuation purposes.
“The next step is to get our certified valuations from the state so we can set our levy,” Knapper said. “The county will do what it can to tighten its belt and keep the levy as low as possible.”
The county board now has until July 25 to finalize its assessment for overvalued and undervalued properties, along with properties that have been destroyed.
“One of our duties is the Board of Equalization,” Knapper said. “We need to make sure that competitors are on an equal playing field. Similar structures should be valued equally, no matter where they’re located. Our goal is getting to that equalization by lowering valuation, not raising it.”
On Sept. 15, the state’s property tax administrator “certifies the amount of real property tax credit and agricultural land tax credit to the state treasurer.”
Then on Sept. 20, the budget must be final and filed with the county and the state auditor.
District V County Commissioner Mark Harris said the protest process went smoothly and was pretty much what he expected.
“We didn’t have as many commercial properties to deal with as we did last year, when there was an across-the-board increase,” he said. “This year’s increase was on residential and ag residential, so we saw a few more of those.”
Harris said his biggest challenge was coming up with equitable valuation for storage buildings that was fair to everyone.
Some of the commissioners were also concerned over the some of the property maps they had to work from.
“Some of the mapping didn’t match up with what the property was being assessed at over the last 10 years,” Harris said. “The new mapping found some additional acres or eliminated some. We had the mapping people at the hearings, but the mapping turned into a minimal issue compared to the overall scheme of things.”
He said a few people were upset their valuation increased, but realized they were getting a bargain because those acres weren’t being reported.
“Beyond valuation, the bigger issue we have to deal with will come at budget time when we determine how much tax money we need to operate the county,” Harris said. “We have more control over the budget than we have over valuation.”