WAHOO – A confusing legislative bill and a booming real estate market led to over 12,000 changes in real property valuations in Saunders County this year.
A total of 12,430 notices went out to property owners at the beginning of June. Most of the changes were the result of LB372 passed last August by the Nebraska Legislature, according to Saunders County Assessor/Register of Deeds Rhonda Andresen. She said the bill caused problems throughout the state.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Erdman of District 47, was designed to correct the way the Property Assessment Division had been assessing grassland, according to a column Erdman wrote to his constituents on June 11. Instead of using dryland criteria, the primary source for assessing grassland was supposed to be grassland-specific data from the NRCS, Erdman said. He said the Property Assessment Division trained county assessors on the changes, but discrepancies have been found. State Property Tax Administrator Ruth Sorensen, who heads the Property Assessment Division, is looking into the issue.
Andresen said the changes moved a portion of the grass to higher levels and reclassified some grass as dry. Some dry and irrigated acres were also affected.
Ag land valuation did not rise in Saunders County, Andresen said. Instead, changes in classification are what caused the valuation to change.
Sales were the driving force in many valuation changes in the county, Andresen said. When houses sell quickly and for great prices, the result is in an increase in valuation in that area, she explained.
“When houses sell so wonderfully, it’s going to make your assessment go up,” she added.
State law requires counties to value property between 92 and 100% of market value. Saunders County is at 94%, Andresen said.
“We try to keep it as low as we can, but we still have to be within the state requirements,” she said.
Several market areas in the county were reviewed and adjusted due to increase in market sales, according to Andresen. They included Sabre Heights in Ashland; rural subdivisions near Fremont’ the Woodcliff area; subdivisions in Yutan; Wahoo and the surrounding subdivisions; the communities of Ceresco, Mead, Cedar Bluffs, Colon, Leshara, Malmo, Memphis, Swedeburg, Valparaiso, Weston and Prague; improvements only at Sandy Pointe north of Ashland; agricultural residential in areas 11, 13 and 15 and rural dwellings in areas 12 and 14.
There are 16,430 parcels in the county. Of those, 9,100, or 55.39%, are residential. Ag land makes up 38.69% with 6,347 parcels. The 902 commercial parcels account for 5.49% of the total in the county. There are 70 recreational parcels, which make up less than .5% of the total.
Once the valuations go out, property owners have until June 30 to file a protest. County Clerk Patti Lindgren said 56 protests have been
filed so far. She expects more, especially in the week leading up to the deadline.
Protests can be mailed to the Saunders County Clerk, PO Box 61, Wahoo, NE 68066, emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 402-443-5709 or placed in the drop box on the north side of the courthouse. Protests must be postmarked and/or received by the county clerk no later than June 30.
Property owners can request or decline a hearing with a referee. Lindgren said with social distancing practices in place at the courthouse, it will be more of a challenge to hold a hearing.