Home > News, Politics > New law makes county assessors more transparent when lowering assessment ratios

New law makes county assessors more transparent when lowering assessment ratios

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Beginning Nov.1, county assessors in Oklahoma will need to follow protocol when it comes to decreasing the percentage of real or personal property. Gov. Mary Fallin approved the bill this week authored by State Rep. John Pfeiffer (R-Mulhall).

State Rep. John Pfeiffer

State Rep. John Pfeiffer

The bill, who was co-authored by State Senator AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie), was introduced on Feb. 2 and passed both the House (54-42) and Senate (39-6).

Fellow Logan County State Rep., Jason Murphey, (R-Guthrie) voted against the bill (HB 1407).

The upcoming law states no county assessor may decrease the percentage of value used to compute the taxable value of real or personal property unless the assessor provides written notice of an intent to decrease the applicable percentage at least ninety (90) days prior to the first date as of which the assessor intends to cause such percentage to be decreased. See the specifics of the bill later in this article.

With the new bill, assessors will continue to ultimately have the power to lower assessment ratios.

In late 2013, Logan County Assessor Tisha Hampton became the first assessor in Oklahoma to lower an assessment ratio since the state question was approved in 1996. The decision lowered the real property tax from 12 percent to 11 percent and the personal property tax from 12 percent to 10 percent.

The rate can only be increased through a super-majority (60%) vote of the people.

The lowering was questioned by several, including Guthrie Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson. Simpson learned of the lowering in a Guthrie News Page article. On that day, Simpson contacted Hampton requesting why he was not informed of the decision before hand. Simpson stated Hampton mailed a letter dated on Dec. 23 to the administration office. However, the school did not receive any mail from the dates of Dec. 20 to Jan. 6 because of the Christmas holiday.

According to Simpson, Hampton told him, by law, she was not required to send the letter, but did it as a favor to the school. Related story: Logan County property taxes set to fall by 8 percent

With the one percent decrease, public schools, county rural fire departments, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, county commissioners, Meridian Vo-Tech and Francis Tuttle saw financial cuts. Related story: Guthrie schools possibly out over $400,000 next school year

Specifics of the bill

The written notice shall be mailed by certified mail with return receipt requested to the county treasurer, the county clerk, the county sheriff and to each of the county commissioners. Such notice shall be mailed not later than sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of the ninety-day period prescribed by this subsection.

The notice shall clearly state the percentage in effect prior to the decrease, the category of property (whether real or personal or both) to be affected by the proposed decrease in assessment percentage and the date as of which such decrease is proposed to take effect.

The proposal further states, the county assessor shall also be required to publish a notice of intent to decrease the applicable percentage which clearly states the percentage in effect prior to the decrease, the category of property (whether real or personal or both) to be affected by the proposed decrease in assessment percentage and the date as of which such decrease is proposed to take effect.

The notice shall be placed at least one time for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the assessor holds office. The last publication date shall be not later than thirty (30) days prior to the date that any decrease in the assessment percentage is implemented.

Before the county assessor may implement a decrease in an assessment percentage with respect to either real or personal property, there shall be at least three public meetings held at a location within the county prior to the date as of which the first decrease in assessment percentage occurs.

Notice of the meetings shall be posted in the office of the county assessor, the office of the county treasurer, the offices of each county commissioner, the office of the county clerk and such other places within the county as may be feasible in order to provide adequate notice of the date, time and location of each meeting.

The last public meeting shall be held not later than thirty (30) days prior to the date any decrease in the applicable assessment percentage is implemented.

Finally, the bill states the county assessor or a designee from the office of the county assessor shall attend each of the public meetings in order to answer questions about the proposed decrease in the assessment percentage and any possible effects on the budgets of any ad valorem taxing jurisdiction.

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