News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 16, 2013

Woodgate residents question assessments

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Many residents of Woodgate, a Honey Creek Township subdivision, are questioning their most-recent property tax assessments — most believing the county has put too high of a value on their property.

Dozens of Woodgate residents met Friday with Debbie Lewis, Vigo County assessor, and Edward Bisch, the county’s technical adviser, over the property owners’ concerns with the recent reassessment.

After more than two hours, though, many residents felt the meeting did little to assuage their worries.

The meeting failed to explain “what’s unique about Woodgate?” said Mike Poinsett, a Woodgate resident who helped organize Friday’s session. “Land” — as opposed to “structure” — assessments in the neighborhood nearly doubled while nearby neighborhoods saw little changes in their land values, he said.

Land and structure values are just pieces of an assessment, Bisch said. The important thing is your overall assessed value, he said.

“Make sure your total assessment is fair and reasonable,” Bisch told the residents who had gathered inside the county annex.

Bisch said he wished assessors were not required to separate “land” and “structure” values, since the current assessment system is designed to reflect market value, which typically does not distinguish between the two.

“The reason we have to [break out land and structure values] is because the state says we have to,” Bisch said.

Land values aside, several Woodgate residents said they believe their overall property assessments are too high — in most cases because of the recent construction of the nearby Cobblestone Crossings apartments.

The most-recent assessment, however, is based, in part, on property sales that took place before the newest apartments were built, Bisch noted. If the apartments do affect property values in Woodgate, that will show up in future sales and, therefore, in future reassessments or in “trending” between reassessments, he said.

Darleen Vaeth of Woodgate believes her property is assessed at least $20,000 higher than it should be. Once potential buyers learn apartments may be constructed near her home, they turn away, she said.

“I think it’s over assessed,” Poinsett said of his own property, which is only a few yards from a new apartment building.

“It’s too high,” echoed John Penry, speaking of his Woodgate property’s overall assessed value.

Michael Myers, who was one of about a half dozen Woodgate residents to speak at the meeting, said he believes his property is assessed about $10,000 too high.

“I’d love to be able to sell my property for what they say it’s worth,” he said.

Assessed values in Indiana are done on a mass basis and exact precision is not to be expected, said Larry DeBoer, a professor of agricultural economics and local government finance expert at Purdue University, when contacted Friday by the Tribune-Star.

“If [an assessed] value is within about 10 percent of what you know you could sell your house for, then we consider it to be pretty accurate,” DeBoer said. “We give them the 10 percent range because it is a mass reassessment. The county couldn’t afford to go and individually appraise every house.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com