Danedri Thompson
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Property tax bills for Gardner Edgerton School District patrons will be higher than advertised thanks to faulty projections school officials received from the county last summer.
School districts are required to build and approve a budget for the following year each August. To do so, Eric Hansen, USD 231 Business Director, said he used assessed valuation projections to build a budget with a projected 1 mill increase for 2011.
At the time, he said because the value of the average property decreased between 2009 and 2010, the average homeowner would pay less in 2011 – even with a 1 mill increase.
Hansen explained that the average home in the GE district was worth $162,000 in 2009. By 2010, the average home in the district was valued at $158,000. With a 1 mill increase, Hansen said the owner of that home would actually pay $18 less in taxes under the budget as originally proposed.
School officials learned last month, however, that the valuation estimates were off, and the taxable value of property in the school district is $13.7 million less than school officials anticipated. Instead of a 1 mill increase, GE residents will now see a 3 mill increase on tax bills this year.
For the owner of the average home in the district – a $158,000 house – that will amount to an additional $18 in taxes annually, or a total school tax bill of $1,488 annually.
It’s not unusual for preliminary valuation estimates from the county to vary slightly than the final numbers, Hansen explained. Typically, Hansen said they differ by one-half of a percent or so. This year, however, the $13.7 million decrease in values was 5.7 percent less than initial figures.
Hansen said one reason the estimates and final numbers varied so dramatically is that the early numbers the district received last summer didn’t include a 50 percent tax abatement figures for the Coleman Warehouse.
“(County officials) had to back down the value, because they did not put the abatement into the final process,” Hansen said. “I was not aware the Coleman abatement had not been included in the first go around.”
Hansen said the Coleman Warehouse may not be the only reason for the downward adjustment in the value of the district.
“There were possibly a few other commercial tax properties that were adjusted down as well,” he said. “…Having done this job for 15, 15, 17 years, I have seen years where assessed valuation has gone up a little bit or down a little bit, but nothing like what happened this year.”