One reason the Metro government is taking a conservative budget approach this year is because many residents have successfully fought to reduce their property reappraisals.
While it means less tax money for the city, Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite was not defensive while fielding questions from Mayor David Briley at her budget hearing Monday.
“Is there a sense of why?” he asked. “Did you see anything systematic … missed across the board?”
Wilhoite said her team of evaluators didn't make recurring mistakes, and she suggested several reasons that appeals were up by more than 40 percent, compared to the prior assessment four years earlier.
For one, she said, she expected homeowners to respond to the high jump in property values — an average of 37 percent countywide — to try to tamp down on their tax bills.
“So if someone comes to us and says, ‘My roof is leaking, my foundation is cracked, I have a burned kitchen that I have not been able to repair,’ it’s at that point we would send one of our appraisers out to take a look at it, and then we would adjust appropriately,” she said of the appeals process.
An earlier analysis by The Tennessean found that about 80 percent of homeowners who appealed did get their assessments lowered. The numbers weren’t final, but a cut in tax revenue of more than $20 million was possible.
This is a huge part, perhaps the biggest, of why Metro’s budget will be a tough one this year. When tax revenue doesn’t grow with population growth, tough choices will have to be made as city services try to keep up with serving more people. https://t.co/a9AhHr34Ho
— Jeremy Elrod (@JeremyElrod26) March 19, 2018
Still, Wilhoite doesn’t begrudge that outcome. In fact, she said she is proud that her office held more than 100 outreach events to make sure people knew they could appeal, and how to do it.
“We give the information to the people to be able to be empowered, to understand what are their options,” she said.
One other factor, assessor staff said, was that commercial property owners saw such large value increases (up 70 percent on average), that many contested those assessments as well.