Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summoned to Green Hills

Attending the Tax Assessor's community meeting held in Green Hills last night for four south-by-southwest councilmanic districts was a novelty in and of itself. When I attend North Nashville community meetings most of the other white folk present are younger than me; out at Julia Green Elementary, most of the folk looked older than me and all of them were white.

Most of those who spoke during the session with Metro's George Rooker seemed frustrated with the perception that the Assessors office used McMansions in surrounding areas built on "scraped-off" properties (as in "scraped of older homes") to compare to their more modest homes (defined as having the original sinks and fixtures and modest flora relative to the new megadwellings around them).

There were a couple of anti-revenue types in the crowd who were the most vocal in their unhappiness of paying any tax to speak of, and their regular interruptions tended to produce eye rolls and at least two audience admonitions to quiet down. But the general trepidation about the reappraisal among these Nashvillians was with the increase in percentages of real property values and the methods by which the Tax Assessor compared properties.

For his part, Mr. Rooker insisted that the reappraisal process does not focus on percentage increases but on market values based on comps with similar homes. He conceded that assessors could be mistaken in their comps, given that they do not always have the full details of various properties. He also acknowledged that assessors base their estimates only on an exterior analysis of the house, even though a lack of interior upgrades might affect real property values. Mr. Rooker went back to the position over and over that the purpose of the assessment was not to get money but to make sure that the tax burden was distributed equally across Davidson County based on what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on January 1, 2009.

There was also lavish encouragement for taxpayers concerned about this appraisal to consult the Appraisers office and appeal. Mr. Rooker encouraged those appealing to bring Realtors' assessments, engineers' and contractors' documents, descriptions of the interiors, and private appraisals of real property. I told him after the meeting was over that I would like to believe that we could sell our home for Metro's price, but that I was more inclined to go with the lower numbers of a private appraiser we hired a few weeks ago. Not only did our contractor go through our interior, but he marked off value for the lack of appointments like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances so ubiquitous in Germantown-area infills. So, going with comparable sales in our area without looking at the interior may skew our appraisal higher for tax purposes.

I walked away from last night's meeting feeling charitable in my criticism of the Metro Tax Assessor's office, because I am merely seeking some sort of balance between Metro's higher appraisal and my contractor's lower appraisal. The folks I heard from districts that include Sylvan Park, Belle Meade, and Green Hills seemed more out of sorts over their appraisals. Moreover, I did not hear much understanding for the mandate of equitable distribution of taxes. And no one bothered to chime in any concerns about scenarios where winning appeals might cause other homeowners' appraisals to skew higher.

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