Where it all goes (’16)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and it’s marginally higher than last year, owing to a marginally higher assessed value. As always, the County Treasurer duly sends out a breakdown of what is paid to whom, and I reproduce it here for future reference (last year’s numbers in [brackets]:)

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$124.57]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $482.54 [$476.19]
  • Metro Tech Center: $125.29 [$123.21]
  • Oklahoma County general: $96.57 [$94.03]
  • Countywide school levy: $33.65 [$33.02]
  • City/County Health Department: $21.05 [$20.66]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $42.27 [$41.47]
  • Total: $922.07 [$913.14]

This year’s millage is 113.43, down from last year’s 114.50. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) I’m not complaining.

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As the dogs and the cats frolic together

We have here a curious case where The Oklahoman thinks some of us are insufficiently taxed:

[S]ome Oklahoma counties have failed to assess properties at market value and collect the associated property taxes.

A study prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission at the request of State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones and Oklahoma Watch found 52 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties failed to collect $192 million in property tax revenue in 2014. That shortfall was created by county assessors who didn’t appraise property at market values.

The big counties, which have their own systems, seem to be doing okay, but the smaller ones, part of a multi-county computer system, maybe not so much:

In Pottawatomie County, for example, the study concluded residential property valuations were 16 percent below market value, and commercial property valuations were 24 percent too low.

In Pittsburg County, residential properties were 19 percent undervalued and commercial property was 54 percent below market rates.

Assessors in 16 counties have done such a bad job that the state Board of Equalization has warned that those counties’ assessors could have their paychecks suspended and their offices taken over by the state. Those counties are Adair, Bryan, Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Johnston, Latimer, McCurtain, Murray, Nowata, Okfuskee, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pushmataha, Seminole and Texas.

Of course, trying to fix this will cause all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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Continuous reassessment

Leonard Sullivan, the County Assessor, is expected to come up with a new value for every single parcel of land in the 700-odd square miles that make up this rectangular-looking county, every single year. It’s a tag-team deal: Sullivan issues his assessments in the spring, and County Treasurer Butch Freeman figures the tax bills in the fall.

In the twelve years I’ve been here, the value has been on a bit of a roller coaster: it rose markedly once I got here, for which I claim no credit whatsoever, and then it plunged during the Great Recession. Things have leveled out a bit since then. This year, Sullivan says that the palatial estate at Surlywood is worth 1.7 percent more than it was last year, which should not result in a whopping tax increase unless Freeman goes berserk or the Feds decide to foreclose on the County Jail, and the latter has apparently been ruled out until 2018 at the earliest.

Last year’s tax bill was a hair over $900; I will be surprised should it rise to $1000. (It’s been there before, though.)

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Where it all goes (’15)

The county was a little late getting the property-tax bills out, though of course they’re not going to be cutting taxpayers any slack in getting those bills paid. The actual amount I get to pay is a smidgen higher than last year, due to a small increase in the assessed value and a fraction of a mill added to the actual tax rate. Here’s where all those dollars go, and in brackets, where they went last year:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $124.57 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $476.19 [$462.53]
  • Metro Tech Center: $123.21 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.03 [$90.78]
  • Countywide school levy: $33.02 [$32.26]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.66 [$20.18]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.47 [$40.52]
  • Total: $913.14 [$887.04]

This year’s millage is 114.50, up from last year’s 113.84. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The bank presumably will cut them a check on Monday.

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Origaming the system

Another example of the method of protest being more entertaining than the actual circumstance being protested:

According to a report from the Times Record News, police say a Wichita Falls, TX man refused to leave the county courthouse while trying to pay his tax bill.

Paying your bill is totally legal, of course, but a county tax official accused him of disrupting the operation and efficiency of the tax office because he handed over his $600 payment with $1 bills folded so tightly, each one “required tax office personnel approximately six minutes to unfold each bill,” police say.

Staff attempted to eject him; when he wouldn’t go, they hauled him off to jail. They didn’t say what he used to post $500 bail. Me, I just want to know how someone in Texas has a property-tax bill of only $600.

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Where it all goes (’14)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and the bank will cut them a check on the 30th out of my depleted escrow account. Fortunately, while the amount isn’t exactly trivial, it’s smaller than it was last year, the result of stagnant property values and an unexpected decrease in the actual tax rate. As always, the county treasurer has sent along a manifest showing what this sum is being used to fund, and last year’s numbers appear in [brackets]:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$126.58]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $462.53 [$478.05]
  • Metro Tech Center: $120.39 [$122.50]
  • Oklahoma County general: $90.78 [$94.52]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.26 [$32.77]
  • County Health Department: $20.18 [$20.50]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $40.52 [$41.16]
  • Total: $887.04 [$915.88]

This year’s millage is 113.84, down from last year’s 115.70. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.)

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Where it all goes (’13)

Two things are notable about this year’s property-tax bill: the millage is up by a smidgen, and the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood is not exactly climbing. End result: the outlay drifted downward a bit. From the treasurer’s report that comes with the bill (last year’s numbers, as always, in [brackets]):

  • City of Oklahoma City: $126.58 [$133.46]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $478.05 [$494.54]
  • Metro Tech Center: $122.50 [$128.87]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.52 [$100.43]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.77 [$34.53]
  • County Health Department: $20.50 [$21.60]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.16 [$43.37]
  • Total: $915.88 [$956.80]

Last year’s write-up is here. The actual millage is 115.70, up from 114.71; highest millage on record was 117.58 in 2011.

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It was a slow news day, or something

Top story in the Sunday Oklahoman was the disclosure that one county commissioner and the county assessor owned certain properties that were exempt from property tax, inasmuch as those properties were leased to qualifying nonprofits. Somewhere down in the guts of the article, you could find that yes, this is legal: exemptions are not based on who owns the property, but the use made of it. Scandal-mongering? Someone up the line thought so, and the paper was contrite this morning:

From the publisher …

We have published The Oklahoman 365 days per year for 110 years. Thousands of elements and hundreds of employees come together to bring you news stories, photos, graphics, sports scores, obituaries, advertising and more.

Many judgment calls go into this daily equation, and we are hopeful that more often than not our judgment is sound. But it wasn’t Sunday morning when we gave front-page billing to the story about two elected officials and tax exemptions for property owners who lease to nonprofit entities.

As reported in the story, Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan and County Commissioner Ray Vaughn did not violate any laws; the referenced exemptions are legal, and their actions were not particularly newsworthy. Our placement on the first page of Sunday’s edition did not comport with the worthiness of the story and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

This was a poor decision on our part and it is our responsibility to our community, and ourselves, to say so. We are mindful of the Purpose Statement below which we publish every day and intend to live by.

Commissioner Vaughn and Assessor Sullivan have been gracious about the article and have our apologies.

The paper’s Paul Monies posted an image of the page-2A meae culpae to Twitter.

When I read the piece Sunday afternoon, I had exactly one reaction: “Big deal.” Then again, one does not expect much from the Sunday front page.

And this was the link; the article has since been plunked into the memory hole.

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Where it all goes (’12)

There’s really only one good thing about stagnant or declining property values: in a properly designed property-tax system, one’s tax bill should remain the same or even go down. And indeed mine went down this year, following the double whammy of a calculated $4500 drop in value — all attributable to the house, since the figure assumed for the land on which it sits remains unchanged — and an unexpected 2.87-mill decrease from last year’s record-high tax rate. What I’m paying for, with last year’s numbers in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $133.46 [$141.26]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $494.54 [$548.87]
  • Metro Tech Center: $128.87 [$136.58]
  • Oklahoma County general: $100.43 [$107.23]
  • Countywide school levy: $34.53 [$36.60]
  • County Health Department: $21.60 [$22.90]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $43.37 [$45.97]
  • Total: $956.80 [$1039.41]

For the curious: the County Assessor considers the palatial estate at Surlywood to be worth about $3500 less than what Zillow does.

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Where it all goes (’11)

For the last few years, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. The actual tax rate in my particular district rose by 2.84 percent; it’s the highest ever, or at least the highest since the beginning of the County Assessor’s online list, but not by much. Here’s who’s getting what, with what they got last year in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $141.26 [$142.27]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $548.87 [$524.90]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.58 [$138.15]
  • Oklahoma County general: $107.23 [$110.34]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.60 [$37.02]
  • County Health Department: $22.90 [$23.17]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $45.97 [$46.50]
  • Total: $1039.41 [$1022.34]

Note that with one exception, everyone is making do on slightly less than they got last year.

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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Where has all the equity gone?

The hardest thing for some of us to get our minds around has been that there exists no Law of Conservation of Equity: if it’s reduced at Point A, there is no Point B at which it must therefore increase. There’s still a lot of it out there — $6.2 trillion, said the Federal Reserve at the end of June — but six years ago there was over $13 trillion. That’s one hell of a vanishing act.

Still, not everybody is underwater yet:

Roughly one of every three homes is mortgage-free, according to federal and industry estimates.

Among owners who have mortgages, according to CoreLogic, 48.5 percent of them have at least 25 percent equity stakes in their properties. Roughly a quarter of owners with mortgages — 24.6 percent — have more than 50 percent equity.

At the other end of the spectrum, 22.5 percent of owners are in negative equity positions, burdened with houses worth less than their mortgage balances.

According to the county assessor, the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood dropped by a percentage point this year, but the amount due on the mortgage went down more than that, so technically my equity position has improved by a smidgen: about 27 percent, putting me pretty close to the 50th percentile. Property-tax rates won’t be released until later this month, but I anticipate about a 1-percent increase — which would leave my tax bill for this year at pretty much where it was last year. Then again, my mad prediction skillz have been fairly questionable of late.

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A marginally-tighter cap

The usual suspects are effusive in their praise for what was House Joint Resolution 1002, which puts a measure on the ballot to change the existing property-tax cap from five percent to three percent. An example thereof:

State Sen. Jim Reynolds was effusive this morning (Wednesday, April 20) after passage of House Joint Resolution 1002. By a vote of 77-16, with five members excused and three taking constitutional privilege, the measure sailed through the House of Representatives. The final overwhelming bipartisan majority approved sending the constitutional measure to a statewide vote of the people.

If passed by voters, the proposal will limit property tax increases to 3 percent of fair cash value.

Well, actually, no, it won’t. Like the previous 5-percent cap, this measure imposes a limitation on the increase in taxable assessed value. It has absolutely nothing to say about the tax rates themselves, which will continue to be set exactly as before. If you happen to live in, say, the Crutcho school district in Oklahoma County, the tax rate went up 20.4 percent this past year, mostly due to a $1 million bond issue passed last year by eleven of fourteen actual voters. The tax rate in my own area, by comparison, went up just under 0.8 percent.

I’m guessing someone lent Jim Reynolds a hat to talk through for this:

“At the 5% cap, property taxes essentially double every 14 years. With this new 3% cap, it will take at least 24 years for taxes to double.”

At least he knows the Rule of 72, which puts him a notch above some of the innumerable innumerates who seem to get themselves elected these days. The facts of the matter, though, from someone who’s done the homework:

Since I’ve been here, the market value of the house has risen by a third; the tax rate has bobbed up and down, and while 114.33 is the highest it’s been, the lowest (for 2008) was 106.08, so we’re talking a fairly-narrow range here. The [Oklahoma County] Assessor’s online records go back to 1983, at which time the tax rate was 83.63; the tax rate has therefore risen 37 percent in 37 years. Market values, of course, have risen faster, especially considering that the local real-estate market in the early 1980s was in a deep, dark hole.

Leonard Sullivan, who is the Assessor for Oklahoma County, understands the rule. I understand the rule. I’d like to think there’s at least one more person in this state who understands the rule. I suppose I’ll find out when this shows up as a State Question in 2012.

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Try this cap on for size

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel wants you to know that if the legislature passes one of its property-tax limitation measures, it doesn’t mean your taxes will quit going up, which regular readers of this site know already.

That much is pretty well indisputable. But then he comes up with this:

Yazel said lowering the cap on property valuations wouldn’t benefit poor or middle-class homeowners because it does not address the real issue — the growing demand for property tax money.

“If I constrain a taxable value for a home in an area that is going up 14 or 15 percent a year, I no longer have as much value in that rising neighborhood,” so the millage rate — which affects the entire area — will have to be increased to raise the funds needed, Yazel said. “So we’re shifting the fair share, if you will, to the people who live in the neighborhoods that do not go up.”

In other news, there are supposedly areas in Tulsa County that are increasing in value 14 or 15 percent a year.

(Via Mike McCarville.)

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Where it all goes (’10)

For the last couple of years or so, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. This year, no doubt inspired by my initiative, the County Treasurer is doing the math and enclosing the details with the annual tax statements, so here are his numbers for 2010, alongside my numbers [in brackets] for 2009:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $142.27 [$130.71]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $524.90 [$517.11]
  • Metro Tech Center: $138.15 [$136.73]
  • Oklahoma County general: $110.34 [$113.81]
  • Countywide school levy: $37.02 [$36.64]
  • County Health Department: $23.17 [$22.92]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $46.50 [$46.02]
  • Total: $1022.34 [$1003.94]

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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Annual out-forking

This is the time of year when we start anticipating our property-tax bills and the Trepidation Meter starts deflecting rightward. We already know what we’re going to be taxed on — the Assessor publishes the taxable values in the spring — but the actual tax rate isn’t determined until fall.

And while they haven’t published the rate yet, a little down-digging into the Assessor’s Web site turns up a place where the new rate is already in use, and in my district it’s 114.33, up from 113.44 last year. This will increase the taxes on the palatial estate at Surlywood by $18.40.

Since I’ve been here, the market value of the house has risen by a third; the tax rate has bobbed up and down, and while 114.33 is the highest it’s been, the lowest (for 2008) was 106.08, so we’re talking a fairly-narrow range here. The Assessor’s online records go back to 1983, at which time the tax rate was 83.63; the tax rate has therefore risen 37 percent in 37 years. Market values, of course, have risen faster, especially considering that the local real-estate market in the early 1980s was in a deep, dark hole.

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And the curves cross here

Last year, about this time:

Because of the cap rule, during periods when valuation increases, taxable market value lags assessed market value by several percentage points; but there’s no mechanism to push taxable value back down again unless the assessed value drops low enough to take up all that slack.

The County Assessor has now sent out the Notice of Change in Assessed Value, and it appears that all the slack has now been taken up, at least on the palatial estate at Surlywood, the taxable value of which has been deemed to have increased by a mere $834. At the current tax rate, this will cost me an additional eight bucks or so in property tax when the bill comes out this fall.

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A day late and several dollars short

I mentioned earlier that the tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood had jumped up a bit for 2009, mostly due to an increase in the actual millage, since the value on which the tax is based didn’t go up a whole lot. It occurred to me that this might cause a substantial upward adjustment (current euphemism for “frickin’ ginormous increase”) in the monthly outlay, and since the mortgage holder normally calculates these things in March, I figured I’d send in the March house payment with an extra $250 or so to keep the escrow account from looking like a Federal deficit chart.

Score this as a temporary Connivance Fail. The payment duly arrived on the first of March, as it’s supposed to, but they ran the escrow analysis on the 27th of February. Which was a Saturday, and since when do bankers work on a Saturday?

Oh, well. When the property tax goes up for this year, as I assume it must, I’m prepared.

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Where it all goes (’09)

Last year I put up an itemized list of where my property-tax money was going, according to the County Assessor’s official breakdown, and I figured I’d do it again this year. Figures in [brackets] are for last year, and they’re of course lower.

  • City of Oklahoma City: $130.71 [$125.46]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $517.11 [$439.83]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.73 [$129.49]
  • Oklahoma County general: $113.81 [$94.29]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.64 [$34.70]
  • County Health Department: $22.92 [$21.71]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $46.02 [$43.58]
  • Total: $1003.94 [$889.06]

This is about as much as they could raise it without running afoul of either the cap law or the patience of the taxpayers, and I’m not so sure about the latter, especially since the notices haven’t gone out yet.

The actual rate chart is here. Many of the individual levies are actually the same as last year, though the OCPS levy is up 11.3 percent.

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A kilogram of flesh

Last year’s Oklahoma County property-tax rate, in my particular sub-district, was 106.08; this year it’s going up a little more than a tad, to 113.44, which is the highest it’s been in a quarter-century, though barely more than it was in 2002, at 113.33.

This will push the tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood to just over $1000. (It was a shade under $900 last year.) The rate two years ago was 110.42.

Percentagewise, I’m getting about the same hit as Jerry “Iceman” Butler: about 11 percent. Then again, he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I’m not.

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Eating more escrow

Something is rotten in the state of Indiana, reports Roberta X:

I discovered my (new) home lender, the guys who picked up Countrywide (who’d bought the note from my original lender), reviewed my real estate taxes (which are just plain nuts in Indiana of late and did go up — should drop next year, once my various exemptions finally kick in) and decided, oopsie, they didn’t really think they had enough in escrow and cranked up their reserve to the maximum amount permitted by law; so they have jacked up my house payments nearly 130% and to keep them from going up 150%, I’m gonna have to front ’em something over $2K by 1 September.

This is my punishment for gettin’ a nice, conservative fixed-rate loan. Gee, thanks.

If I’ve read this correctly, it’s actually worse than it sounds, since Indiana bills twice a year, but one year in arrears, so Weasel & Co., which presumably has to pay big this fall, will continue to collect big toward a smaller tax bill for much of next year.

I suspect, though, they’d have done the same had our heroine somehow been duped into one of those wicked ARM schemes.

Funny, when my employer asked everyone to pleeeeze forgo a raise this year, times being tough and everything, we all went along; but ask government or a homelender the corresponding question and they’ve suddenly gone deaf. Umm, d000ds, don’t you think you have bled the middle-class turnip just about dry?

They’re in cahoots. Ask Chris Dodd, beneficiary of this sort of cahootery.

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