Tax bills to be late
Trending process could raise or lower taxes

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

While Ripley County Assessor Shawna Bushhorn hopes the delay in tax bills won’t be a repeat of 2001, she knows the reality of the situation at hand. Bushhorn and 91 other assessors across the state have been working to comply with state mandates for property assessments to mirror the real estate market. The assessors have had to pull local sales records and create formulas to update property values.

Described as “trending” Bushhorn says the new procedure requires reassessment of property based on sales of similar properties. An example given by Gary Malone, Executive Partner with Umbaugh, noted, “ a housing unit of 150 houses, if 20 were sold in the past 2 years, the ratio of selling price to assessed value would be computed.” This allows valuation of surrounding properties to increase without a physical inspection. Bushhorn predicts the new process to be the wave of the future.
Bushhorn warns the trending process, which is required by the Department of Local Government Finance, could cost some taxpayers additional money when paying their property taxes this Spring. While some of the percentages look daunting on paper, the final computation might not be as drastic. The problem is, she doesn’t have all of the data to give the general public an exact amount at this time.

Working with state officials on the new process has been frustrating for Bushhorn, who last week had finally seen results from work she had been doing since August of last year. Requesting that Representative Cleo Duncan pay her a visit to see what she had been through, Bushhorn said, “It’s a long process and I’ll work until midnight if I have to to get it straightened out.” Her vehicle could be found after hours last week at the courthouse as she held true to her word.

The process requires:
• Sales Ratio Study submitted to DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) by County Assessor.
• Sales Ratio Study approved by DLGF.
• County Auditor submits Certified Net Assessed Values to DLGF.
• DLGF issues budget order to County Auditor.

Reports were given that all 92 counties missed their August 2006 deadline to give assessment date. “I’ve had the initial work completed since August,” Bushhorn noted, but couldn’t get through to state officials for approval. It’s been a long, complicated process that at times has been frustrating for the local assessor. The assessor’s ratio study was approved on April 2. The trending process is in progress, but taxes can’t be computed until the auditor receives the tax rate from the state.

Bushhorn knows the impact “trending” could have on taxpayers and she also knows that delayed tax bills means delayed funds for various agencies including school corporations and county entities that count on those dollars to operate.

“I hope people can be patient,” she concluded, saying her office is doing everything they can to be in compliance and make the process go as smoothly as possible.

If taxpayers have a question regarding their statement (once they receive it), Bushhorn would be glad to discuss it with them. She said as a property owner, she’s in the same boat as everyone else and knows that an increase in taxes is the last thing anyone wants.

The bills are expected to be late, but hopefully will be out in time to be received back in the Treasurer’s Office by June or possibly July.