Politics

Louisville Metro Council members are scrutinizing new property assessments that, in some neighborhoods, have spiked by as much as 40 or even 150 percent.

During a meeting Wednesday of the Council’s Government Accountability and Ethics Committee, members grilled representatives of the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator’s office, which is responsible for making the assessments.

In the past several weeks, homeowners in the Highlands, Germantown, Clifton, Butchertown and other neighborhoods received new home value assessments. Even though a standard increase in home values is around 10 to 15 percent, many residents are reporting 30, 40 and even 150 percent increases.

Josh Hancock of the PVA’s office told council members those numbers come from sales in the same neighborhood as the houses assessed. The only thing that has changed in PVA’s process, he said, is that his office has redrawn and increased the number of specific neighborhoods. As a result, values are targeted to people’s exact area, Hancock said.

“Some people went up 38 percent with no improvement,” he said. “We are required at a 100 percent of fair cash values. Sales drive the bus.”

Council members expressed concerns that those sales-driven numbers could have dire financial consequences for their constituents.

“I understand that sales drive the bus,” Councilwoman Angela Leet said. “I’ve heard you all say that several times today. My concern is that many of my constituents feel like they’ve been hit by the bus.”

Leet said some of her constituents on fixed-incomes saw their home values increase by more than 100 percent, which means they can expect a significantly higher tax bill this year.

Jefferson County currently evaluates homes in quadrants. So, once every four years the county will send out a notice to a homeowner.

Councilman Brent Ackerson said the PVA’s office should be evaluating houses more often than that so homeowners aren’t blind-sided by four years worth of value appreciation.

“If we are doing our job properly than there should be a small incremental change,” Ackerson said.

PVA officials at pointed out their office is currently understaffed and are tasked with many other duties. In the past three years, Hancock said the staff was reduced by 14 percent to about 60 employees. State government currently sets the budget for the county’s PVA office.

Members said the PVA office should be looking out for these large spikes before they get to homeowners.

“You are getting some really unusual results,” Councilman Kelly Downard said.

Hancock said his office has tried to check as many outliers as they could. He said his office is encouraging people to appeal their valuation if they think it’s wrong, though.

“There are possibilities with 280,000 [homes] that things happen,” Hancock said. “I won’t say every single one of them is right. But if it is incorrect, let us know. We will get it corrected.”

Several times throughout the meeting PVA official insisted appealing the value —either online or in person—would be the solution to many of the concerns.

But, council members were not entirely convinced.

“I am concerned when all I hear is ‘appeal, appeal, appeal,’” Leet said. “It’s reactive. It’s not looking for continuous improvement.”

May 18 at 4 p.m. is the deadline to appeal. However, homeowners can submit appeals next year as well, even if their house wasn’t reevaluated during that cycle.