Property tax values are largely unchanged

If you are a property owner in Sedgwick County, you will be getting some mail soon — and the news may be mixed.

The majority of residential property values remained largely the same last year.

"People want their biggest investment to appreciate in value, but the last couple of years there has been very little home price appreciation," Sedgwick County Appraiser Michael Borchard said Wednesday.

That's the bad news, he said.

"The good news is it could have been worse, like in so many other cities," Borchard said.

More than 219,000 notices will be sent Monday to Sedgwick County property owners and most will see that property values have remained about the same.

Nearly 80 percent of the county's existing residential dwellings remained about the same in value.

About 16 percent increased in value. The average increase was about 4 percent.

About 5 percent decreased in value. The average decline was 3 percent, Borchard said.

Property owners have until April 1 to appeal their valuations.

Property values are the first step in determining property tax bills. If property values stay the same, taxes will stay the same — unless the city, county or school districts raise or lower tax rates in August.

State law requires the appraised value of every home be set at between 90 and 100 percent of the sale price, Borchard said. The appraisal is calculated by a formula that considers the size of the lot, square feet of living space and the home's age and condition.

Borchard presented the annual appraiser's report Wednesday to Sedgwick County commissioners.

Compared to statewide and national trends, Borchard said, "Wichita has fared fairly well in the last couple years, although it has flattened out."

Borchard reported that about 60 percent of the commercial properties in Sedgwick County remained about the same in value, while about 20 percent increased in value and about 18 percent decreased.

But 64 percent of existing agricultural appraised values in Sedgwick County went down. Those values are set by the state of Kansas and are appraised by the amount of income landowners earn based on the uses of the land.

Roughly 70 percent of the land in Sedgwick County is considered agricultural property.

After reviewing the numbers Wednesday, County Commissioner Tim Norton said he considered the report good news.

"Even though some people may have consternation about rates going up, our county has been on a straight line and we didn't have that huge bubble like they did in other parts of the country, where people thought their home values were worth a lot more than they were — and now reality is setting in," he said. "Wichita has remained low and flat, and we've gained a bit more of a stable housing market."

The number of properties sold also saw a significant drop, with 10,500 sales recorded in 2009 compared to 15,767 in 2006.

Realtor Gary Walker said he also considered the report generally good.

"It is what I anticipated," said Walker, general manger of the residential division for JP Weigand and Sons.

"The appreciation rate has slowed down. The good news is that it has not gone down."

Borchard cautioned Sedgwick County property owners to put the valuations in perspective.

"A lot of people think if their appraised value doesn't change, their tax bill won't change, which isn't necessarily true," he said. "Who knows where the budget will come and what elected officials may have to do? We don't know... what our property taxes will be, yet."