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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pulaski tax bills rising - but it could be worse

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 5:35 AM

Pulaski County has been mailing notices of the reappraisal of real property in the county and the news hasn't been good in some neighborhoods.

More property owners, about 100,000, saw increases in value, which mean increases in taxes. About 80,000 saw decreases. I mentioned previously that my own house jumped 25 percent in value, thanks apparently to some "good" (depending on your point of view) valuations on comparable nearby property sales. But I, like everyone else, have protection from the state circuitbreaker law that limits the increase of my assessment for tax purposes at 5 percent more than the previous valuation. Over the 21 years I've lived in the house, the circuitbreaker has kicked in repeatedly and left me at an effective tax on the property well below what it would be if the house were to sell at the appraised value. Further good news: the value freezes forever next year when my wife turns 65.

Maumelle, Heights, Hillcrest and some higher income neighborhoods in North Little Rock showed valuation increases. But many neighborhoods showed drops and the drops were not limited, in determining taxes, to 5 percent, as increases are

Back to the bigger picture:

The county's assessor's office has prepared a chart for me that illustrates the rise in valuation — and the change in tax revenue it will produce at the existing millage rate — on each of the 16 taxing jurisdictions in Pulaski County. Incorporated areas and school districts determine the taxing districts. Here's that full spread sheet by district. Unfortunately, you'll need this document to identify the 16 by more than the number. It shows the taxing district and prevailing millage rate in each.

The first sheet on the big spreadsheet shows the number of pieces of property in each taxing district, the total valuation and the effective valuation with the cap on valuation imposed by circuit breaker both last year and this year. Overall in the county, property values rose from $5.3 billion to $6.1 billion, but the value for taxes rose by a much smaller amount, from $4.79 to $4.84 billion.
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The second sheet on that spread sheet might be more useful. It analyzes the impact on tax revenues in the named cities and county. It shows both the full value and the capped value of all property, plus the amount the cumulative tax bills will produce in taxes under the cap and — just for fun — without the cap.

For example: All the various Little Rock millages — for general purposes, capital improvements, police and fire pensions and the library — were applied to $2.76 billion in property value in 2011, with tax bills totaling $47.1 million. Under the new values in 2012, bills totaling $47.9 million, or $857,000 more than last year, will go out on $2.81 billion in property in the city of Little Rock. If the property were all to be taxed at market value and not subject to the circuitbreaker, it would be worth more than $3.5 billion and produce $59.9 million in taxes. So there's your bright spot. Sort of.

Note that the small cities of Alexander and Wrightsville will experience small drops in property tax billings because of declines in property value. You can see the chart on the jump.

PS — The sticker shock for some on higher values will be felt most in neighborhoods that have traditionally carried the day for local tax increases. See: Heights and Hillcrest and the last city sales tax vote. This has some implication for the coming city property tax vote, even more than in a sales tax election.

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Key: The chart shows figures for property values and total bills from cumulative millages in the cities and county for 2011 and 2012.

"Full" refers to the market valuation of property.

"Caps" refers to the valuation of property after the state 5 percent cap is applied on any increases in value.

The chart computes the total tax bills, at existing millage rates, in both 2011 and 2012 in every jurisdiction based on the market value and the value with caps. Bills are only prepared on the values as capped. The figures do not include millages approved this year (such as the North Little Rock school millage) or on the ballot this year (such as a millage rededication coming to a vote in September in Little Rock). They can't be collected until next year. Tax bills for this year have already been prepared.

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