The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 16, 2013

Back on the books: Reassessment numbers reflect rebuilding after 2011 tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — Owners of nearly 8,000 properties in Jasper County have been notified that the value of real property they own has increased, and rebuilding from the Joplin tornado represents a significant share of that number.

Officials in the county assessor’s office recently mailed out notices of higher property values, raised as a result of countywide reassessment.

Kelly Maddy and his wife rebuilt their home at 2010 S. Kentucky Ave. after it was all but leveled by the May 2011 tornado. They lived with family for a while, then found a place to rent, and moved back into their new home in February 2012.

Maddy said the higher property value estimated by the county “is in line with what I expected.”

“It’s a small increase from before, but this is new construction,” he said.

Notices were sent to owners of 7,923 properties — 13 percent of the properties in the county. That compares with about 19,000 properties on which values were increased in 2011, and about 7,800 in 2009. By law, counties are required to reassess property every two years to bring the appraised values to within 10 percent of market value.

Notices of higher values set in the 2011 reassessment were mailed out just weeks before the May 22 tornado. A month later, the assessor’s office was notifying owners of residential property that they could reduce the value of their properties if the tornado damaged or destroyed them to the point that they could not be occupied.

Thousands of properties were taken off the tax rolls as a result. Those houses have been returning to the tax rolls as they have been reoccupied, and about 17 percent of the increased values cited for this year are because of those additions.

“We had about 1,110 houses (in the tornado zone) that went to full value at the start of the year, and another 210 that went to partial value,” said Lisa Perry, administrative assistant in the office of County Assessor Connie Hoover. “There was a lot more property rebuilt, but the occupancy law only applies to residential property.”

Cindy Atteberry said she and her husband, Curtis, moved into a new home in the Brookwood Addition near Zora Street and St. Louis Avenue in March 2012. She said they recently received a notice on the first full year’s assessment.

“I sort of wondered what it would be, since this is a new home,” she said, “and I knew this was the first year that it would be a full assessment. But I thought it was reasonable — not out of line at all.”

Britt Karnes had a similar reaction after rebuilding on a lot in the 2200 block of Brownell Avenue to replace the longtime family home that was demolished by the tornado.

The home’s design is different, and about 600 square feet smaller, since his children are grown, he said.

“It’s only going to be about $30 (more in taxes), so I didn’t get too shook up about it,” he said.

The occupancy law is a state law that, if adopted by a county, allows the building portion of residential property to be taken off the tax rolls if the home is rendered uninhabitable because of a natural disaster. On those homes, taxes were assessed on the land, but the homes were taken off the tax rolls after the tornado, then added back as the homes were reoccupied after being repaired or rebuilt.

Homes considered “partial value” are those that were reoccupied during the year, and they will be taken to full value as of Jan. 1, Perry said.

“So homes that have that partial value this year will go to full value next year, and homeowners will get a notice then on the full value,” she said.

Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity is one of a number of groups that helped residents build new homes that have been added to the tax rolls. The organization and its volunteers have been responsible for the construction of 71 homes since the tornado.

Taxes and insurance are included in the cost of the house and reflected in the new owners’ monthly payments, said Scott Clayton, executive director.

“We’re unique in that way, but we haven’t received any tax notices that have been an issue,” he said.

The county did not keep a count of the number of properties taken off the tax rolls, but the impact of the tornado is reflected in the valuations of property in Joplin and Duquesne. The assessor’s office valued residential property in Joplin at nearly $244 million in 2010. Values dropped to $229 million in 2011 and to nearly $218 million in 2012.

In Duquesne, residential property was valued at nearly $11.8 million in 2010. That total dropped to about $10.4 million in 2011, but it had climbed slightly in 2012 to more than $10.5 million.

The value of all new construction in Joplin was appraised at $2.9 million in 2011 and at $11 million in 2012. In Duquesne, the value of new construction was appraised at nearly $200,000 in 2011 and at more than $2.2 million in 2012.

Hoover, the assessor, said this year’s reassessment reflects “a lot of building” in the tornado zone, though she said some of the commercial areas seem to be filling in more quickly.

“I said from the beginning that I thought rebuilding would take at least five years,” she said.

Questions

PROPERTY OWNERS WHO DISAGREE with their new appraisals have until Friday to schedule appointments with the county assessor’s staff to question the numbers. Those who are not satisfied with decisions made in the assessor’s office may appeal their cases to the county Board of Equalization, which meets later in the year. The assessor’s office may be reached by calling 358-0440 or 625-4356.

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