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State Lawmakers Are Looking Into Louisville Property Value Spikes

Update 3:32 p.m.: Response From PVA's Office
A top Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator aide says said there is a lot of misinformation going around about what is required of the office under state law.

Colleen Younger, chief of staff for the PVA's office, said the city’s quadrennial plan is in line with what's required by law. She also said that the city looks at the entire county every year and adjusts if need be, which she said is also in accordance with state law.

“Outside of the area that we are reassessing on an annual basis—whenever that would fall into that quadrant—we also review the entire county and we would do what we would consider to be any kind of an adjustment that would be justified from sales during that time,” Younger said.

Younger said the county does on-site inspections for homes in which permits are "pulled," as well as new construction.

For the rest of the properties, the county relies on Pictometry, which is aerial imagery. Younger said that technology is approved by the Kentucky Department of Revenue as an “alternative to periodic onsite inspections.”

Jason Hancock of the PVA’s office also explained that for years most of these homes have simply been assessed below value, but new technology is helping the county PVA’s office get a better figure of what the value should be.

“The reason for the large increase in assessments is, of course, based on sales. But also as technology has improved, we have remapped and redrawn neighborhoods,” Hancock said.

He said the county is now working with a larger number of smaller neighborhoods, which has made the biggest difference.

Earlier: State lawmakers are looking into the controversy surrounding new property assessments in Louisville.

More than 60,000 Louisville homes were reassessed this year, and some homeowners in Crescent Hill, the Highlands, Butchertown and other neighborhoods saw values increase by 30, 40 and even 150 percent from the last round of assessments.

As a result, many Louisville homeowners are expected to pay significantly more in property taxes this year.

Stories of such dramatic spikes caught the attention of state Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, who chairs the state legislature’s local government committee.

Riggs' committee will hold a hearing on June 24 after the legislator received numerous complaints from his constituents. Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Tony Lindauer and office staff members will be asked questions by lawmakers during the meeting in Frankfort.

“What we need to find out as a committee is to determine why they are getting these huge bumps,” Riggs said.

According to state law, houses and buildings have to be reassessed every year and the PVA’s office has to conduct a physical inspection every four years.

Colleen Younger, chief of staff for the PVA’s office, has said her office assesses property values in quadrants—so, once every four years, but that does not always include a physical inspection.

PVA's office staff have said homes in the most recent round of assessments were mostly assessed using a computer program.

But Riggs said that’s not what the bulk of his concerns are.

Riggs said he is mostly concerned the Jefferson County PVA's office is misreading state law by evaluating homes once every four years. He said he's also not sure that the Jefferson County PVA's office is assessing property as often as its staff says it is.

“They will say they have the quadrennial process, but I’ve got properties I can look at, I’ve got one that’s 14 years since it’s been revalued,” he said.

That’s why Riggs said he wants a state panel to look into the PVA’s procedures. He said if the office were re-valuating properties more often, homeowners wouldn’t see such a large spike from one year to the next.

“What we are looking for as policymakers is accuracy and timely revaluations,” Riggs said. “That’s where the problem is that the valuations have not been timely.”

Another state lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, asked for state agencies and state officials to investigate the Jefferson County PVA's office. A former field property assessor in the county has also filed a lawsuit alleging that Lindauer’s office has been breaking state law by relying so heavily on computer programs.

Riggs, however, called those actions “too aggressive.” He said since the state is in charge of funding and monitoring PVA offices, state lawmakers should see to it that Jefferson County is doing its job properly.

Last month, Younger said the PVA office was following state law during reassessments this year and ultimately any big changes would have to be dealt with by state lawmakers.

“That’s where it lies, and it would be in the hands of the lawmakers in Frankfort,” Younger said in May. “That’s why we have to do what we do, it’s because the Constitution tells us to do that.”

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

Riggs said funding for those agencies is something he and other state agencies will look at, too.

The PVA's office did not immediately return requests for comment for this story.