A Sedgwick County commissioner grilled the county’s appraiser Tuesday about the valuation of outbuildings on rural properties, saying he had received dozens of calls from residents wanting to know why their taxes went up.
“And I had no answer for them,” Commissioner Jim Skelton told appraiser Michael Borchard at the commission’s weekly meeting with department heads.
Borchard explained that some county appraisals were off compared with sales prices because the county had undervalued outbuildings such as pole buildings and metal buildings.
“Properties with this feature were very undervalued compared with sales price,” he said.
The office modified the depreciation tables for these types of buildings, he said.
The median assessed value of outbuildings increased from $330 to $1,116, Borchard said. The increase in total assessed value because of these changes was 16 percent, he said. There are about 5,200 properties across the county with outbuildings, formally called farm implement and farm utility buildings.
Skelton, who represents District 5 in southeast Wichita and Derby, told Borchard it would have been nice to “have some warning” about the changes so commissioners could have been ready to answer residents’ questions. Borchard said he had informed the board.
After the meeting, Borchard told The Eagle in an e-mail that his office had decided to implement changes last year ahead of 2014 valuations.
“I let the commissioners know when the 2014 value notices went out in March. My instruction to them was that if they receive any inquiries as it relates to these increases, we would like to explain the process to the property owners and verify the accuracy of our data and values, and to have any concerned property owners call us or request a hearing,” Borchard said in the e-mail.
Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, whose District 3 covers the western half of the county and features a lot of agricultural property, said he also had received calls from upset residents.
“Our market is not moving that much, and if it is moving, it sure is the best-kept secret in this building,” he said.
One of Peterjohn’s calls came from Dave Rau of Garden Plain. Records show that the county increased the appraised value on improvements to his agricultural land, which is his pole barn, by 82 percent. He said the increase had been higher, but he complained to the county.
“People are furious,” Rau said.
He also said he knew some people who were going to build outbuildings but had decided not to because of the changes.
Borchard said his office is “getting better at what we do all the time,” to which Skelton responded “good grief.”
Commissioner Dave Unruh voiced support for the more accurate values. He said no one calls the county to complain when their valuations are too low.
“You’re supposed to pay property taxes according to value,” Unruh said. “We haven’t been giving (the buildings) the appropriate value. Everybody should be paying as near to market value as is correct, and in the doing of that, everyone’s treated fairly. We all ought to be equal under the law.”