County readies for property tax reassessment questions

STAFF PHOTO BY DAN BROWN Aiken County Tax Assessor Rick Jantzen tells County Council that 2016 is a tax reassessment year, the seventh assessment since Aiken’s first in 1982.

With 2016 being a property tax reassessment year, Aiken County Tax Assessor Rick Jantzen hopes to be able to make the assessment process as simple as possible for residents.

“Tax reassessments are a very impassioned exercise,” Jantzen said. “By the time the property owner contacts us, in the event of an appeal, he is pretty upset about what he’s received as his bill.”

A reassessment is the process of redetermining the value of a parcel of real estate for property tax purposes, Jantzen said.

This year will be Aiken County’s seventh reassessment since its first in 1982. Property tax reassessments have occurred every five years since 1995 when the tax statutes changed. A property’s tax value is limited to a 15 percent increase over the last reassessment, which occurred in 2011.

Since that time, according to Jantzen, the median sales price of single family residence is up 10.8 percent in Aiken County. And since 2010, the median sales price of all Aiken County property sales has increased 4.1 percent, from $120,000 to $124,900.

The County’s tax base has also increased by 11.5 percent since 2011.

Jantzen said sales transactions of high-end homes in communities that include Woodside Plantation and Cedar Creek have dropped by as much as 17 to 19 percent since the last tax reassessment in 2011.

“People owning these higher-end homes like in Woodside Plantation are holding on to their investments,” Jantzen said.

During the reassessment process, residents typically have concerns and questions for officials.

The part the property owner doesn’t realize, in the event of an appeal, is that the goal between the County and property owner is to come to an equitable and fair agreement on the property value, Jantzen said.

“We’re here to work with you,” he said. “We’re on the same side, and our mutual goal is to come to an equitable agreement as to the tax value of a given parcel.”

Jantzen said South Carolina law dictates that all property must be valued at its fair market value, and that all properties must be assessed at one time.

A total of 104,000 parcels will receive a tax assessment notice this year. Property values were assessed as of Dec. 31, 2015 for the 2016 reassessment year. Each parcel will be assessed by Jantzen’s staff of 11 tax agents.

In the event of an appeal, Jantzen said, it is the property owner’s responsibility to know the market value of his investment. In 2011, Jantzen’s office handled more than 6,000 tax assessment appeals.

“We rely on you to help correct any value discrepancies with your home,” he said.

Jantzen said there is much the homeowner can do to prepare for the Sept. 30 tax assessment bill.

“We have a wonderful data resource with our new website,” Jantzen said. “It consists of a map that shows every financial transaction for every home in Aiken County.”

Property owners can click on homes in their proximity and get a comparable price value of homes that have sold recently near them.

To find that information, visit www.aikencountysc.gov, click on “Online Services” and click on “Land Records.”

“We’re really excited to be able to have that as a resource,” Jantzen said.

Dan Brown is the government reporter with the Aiken Standard.