COLUMBIA — Property taxes for Columbia residents are rising a bit this year, but Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said valuations will remain the same.
The assessor generally re-evaluates property during odd-numbered years. Because the real estate market in Columbia has flattened, however, Schauwecker said his office won't reassess this year, leaving valuations at their 2007 numbers. New construction is the obvious exception.
Property taxes are a product of the property's assessed valuation multiplied by the tax rate. Some tax districts, such as Columbia Public Schools, raised property tax rates this year while others, such as Boone County, did not.
That means any changes in property taxes this year will be the result of tax rate changes, not assessed valuations.
Schauwecker said that a year ago he figured property values would increase in 2009, but the recession brought uncertainty.
"I've never seen a market like this," he said. "I'm trying to get my arms around it."
McDonald County Assessor Laura Pope, who is vice president of the Missouri State Assessors Association, said Schauwecker's response has been the norm in Missouri this year.
"Most of us did the same thing," she said, adding that her region of southwest Missouri was an exception. Assessments actually rose there.
Columbia Board of Realtors chief executive officer Carol Van Gorp agreed that home prices have remained relatively flat in this area.
"Another way of saying that is they're real stable," she said.
Schauwecker said assessments aren't necessarily based on sale price but rather on market value. Foreclosures, in particular, can skew the data toward lower values because foreclosed properties sell for much less than the market value.
For example, on Ballentine Lane, a house sold for about $167,000 after foreclosure this year. Last year, a similar house next door sold for $230,000, Schauwecker said. There had been 195 foreclosures in Columbia through August of this year; last year, there were 307 home foreclosures in Columbia.
Van Gorp said the stimulus tax credit for first-time home-buyers has also brought down median sale values because more people than usual were able to buy their first homes.
The board said the median value of a single-family home sold in Columbia has dropped $16,400 since August 2007, t0 $161,500.
Schauwecker said the market's instability makes it hard to predict what housing prices will do in two years, the next time the county is due to reassess property.
"I don't have a crystal ball," he said.
The preliminary total property valuation value for the county, including real estate and personal property, is $2.3 billion.