As many as ten thousand Jefferson County homeowners had their homes taxed at significantly increased values this year by an unprecedented decision of the new Jefferson County Tax Appraiser to change the definition of 1 ½ story homes to 2 story homes. This decision was apparently not disclosed to the tax board and approved as a policy change, and was not communicated to local homeowners as the SOLE REASON that their taxes were significantly increased.
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This information was revealed in a challenge to the new tax rate brought by one of the affected homeowners, Elaine Henderson, in a challenge brought before the appeals board. The new Chief Appraiser for the Jefferson County Appraisal District (JCAD), Angela Bellard, acknowledged this was the primary basis of a sweeping change in how homes would be appraised in Jefferson County going forward, although she acknowledged that the County relied on an industry appraisal handbook which admonished to treat 1 ½ story homes separately from 2 story homes for all the obvious reasons. Full two story homes cost more to construct and have a higher resale value than a 1 ½ story home, which can be made with less material and labor costs. It is believed that hundreds of area residents have appealed their new rates, although it does not appear that any of them have been informed as to why they were raised in the first place. Requests for disclosure of those persons and others impacted has been requested of the County in a Public Information Request.
The Board recently rubber stamped the new policy at a tax appraisal contest brought by Ms. Henderson, which prompted her to file a Temporary Restraining Order and Petition today in Jefferson County District Court, seeking injunctive relief and reassessment on her property and for all others who were subjected to this same across the board decision which has created phantom increased value to properties.
“Raising the taxable value on my home of 16 years by making a unilateral decision to change the physical description is contrary to all accepted appraisal practices and guidelines and patently unfair. For the Board to turn the other cheek to the process to benefit from more tax revenue is wrong, and for the citizens like me who were impacted without ANY disclosure of the reasons for the arbitrary change in policy is a denial of fundamental due process. I don’t mind paying my fair share for taxes, but for the County to just suddenly ignore the rules, their own historical operating procedure, the Codes and all the handbooks and guidelines and just change my property description and others just to raise tax revenue is wrong, says Elaine!”
The board has set aside time for her lead attorneys, Brent Coon of Brent Coon & Associates, and Bailey Wingate of the Wingate Law Firm, to discuss these concerns in more detail this afternoon at the scheduled Board Meeting of the Jefferson County Appraisal District office at 4pm.
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