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An Ozark E-Zine

The Ozarks are a land of soft meadows, craggy mountains, star-studded skies and sparkling waters. The scenery is soothing to the soul. I know. I live here. And I love it more every day.

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Property values impact every resident of Van Buren County...
According to an independent study of public documents pertaining to property values reported by the Van Buren County Assessor's Office to the Assessment Coordination Department for the state of Arkansas, one in four single-family residences sold in Van Buren County during 2005 was essentially over-assessed. That is, the appraised ‘fair market value’ determined by the county assessment process was greater than what the property actually sold for.

Of the 269 properties meeting the criteria for ‘single family residences’ (ie: not large blocks of unimproved acreage, not farms, not commercial properties, etc.), 80 were identified as ‘over assessed’ beyond typical plus-or-minus parameters in that the price the property sold for was considerably less than the assessed valuation.

In dollars, these 80 properties sold for a total of $2,814,200 however they were appraised at $4,339,150 – a difference of $1,524,950. Extrapolated to taxes paid on this difference (based on a .03445 tax rate at 20% of appraised value), this translates to $10,506.91 for an average of $131.34 per each of the 80 tax payers. Within the study group, appraisals on individual properties were over-valued by anywhere from $1,450 to $86,200.

While there are many potential causes of this effect, including, for example, a somewhat typical lag in every county’s efforts to comply with state equalization procedures and/or the way state mandated assessment criteria are applied to various properties by the actual assessors and/or certain forced or hardship property sales, the bottom line is the same: For at least 25% of those who sold a single-family residence in Van Buren County in 2005, a substantial disparity existed between the appraised and actual market value of their property at the time of the sale.

Another trend revealed by state data evidences the potential ramifications to local property taxes of oil & gas play speculators. For example:

<> A block of 6 properties totaling 598.46 acres collectively appraised at $121,850 sold for the aggregate sum of $3,000,000.

<> A block of 10 properties totaling 603.37 acres collectively appraised at $68,650 sold for the aggregate sum of $5,350,000.

<> A block of 20 properties totaling 1178.8 acres collectively appraised at $141,150 sold for the aggregate sum of $17,500,000.

In accord of standardized assessment procedures, the actual selling price of property within a particular geographic region is factored in to the appraised market value assigned to neighboring properties by the county assessor. Though there are some safeguards built into the Arkansas system of property taxation -- ie: the homestead credit, a limit on the amount that property taxes may rise during any given year so long as ownership is not transferred, and regulations which require that property values be appraised in light of "intended use" (ie: a farm as a farm, an oil field as an oil field, a home as a home) -- still this wildcat escalation of property values will in some fashion come around to impact every resident of Van Buren County. ~~~~

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Christine Beems

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JUNE 13, 2006

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Photo: Exterior of the Van Buren County Child Care Center building.

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