County property values 
see boost

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Total assessments rise by $14 million in past year

Property assessments in Barry and Lawrence counties reflect positive economic conditions in numbers released for political subdivisions.

Each year by Sept. 1, government entities that levy a property tax hold public hearings to approve the rate for the year-end taxing cycle.

In Barry County, real estate valuations totaled $339,715,603, an increase of $5.3 million or nearly 2 percent over last year.

"One of the big things we had in Barry County was the poultry farms," said Sherry Sears, assessor. "A lot of the big chicken houses for Tyson Foods and George's converted from traditional houses to the tunnel vents. They used a variety of companies to make the changes, especially Preferred Poultry."

Unlike the addition of industrial equipment, classified as personal property, converted poultry houses qualify as real estate, under the sub-classification of agriculture, taxed at 12 percent.

"With our system, when you choose to add equipment, you assess it as part of the building," Sears said. "If the building is burned or is damaged by a tornado, the damage counts against the real estate.

"If you compare poultry houses in Barry County or McDonald County, going down Highway W toward Wheaton, it looks like the poultry capital of the world. Every mile, you'll see poultry houses on one side of the road or the other."

In mailing the reassessments to poultry producers, Sears said her office received around four calls inquiring about the increased valuations.

"When we went over everything, they agreed our numbers were fairly accurate," Sears said.

The total also reflects some, but not a great deal of new house construction, Sears added.

Barry County personal property assessments totaled $125,306,497, up $9 million, or nearly 1 percent. Total evaluation, which includes state assessed railroad and utilities, rose by $14.7 million over last year.

Sears believed some of the increase stemmed from the addition of new industrial equipment. Big pieces of equipment can transfer from one factory to another, and therefore qualify as personal property, rather than real estate as in the case of poultry houses.

"I was happy to see the increase in the Monett area after the decrease last year," Sears said. "It was definitely [Monett's] turn."

Last year, after the Laclede Gas Company bought out Missouri Gas Energy, the firm reassessed the value of its holdings. The Monett school district took the biggest hit for the change, seeing the district's real estate valuations fall by $270,000 and the personal property fall by another $500,000. For 2015, the school district's real estate valuation of $111,975,022 rebounded to just $11,600 below the 2013 valuation. The personal property assessment, which had fallen for two consecutive years, hit $47,040,246, or $2.2 million higher than the 2012 valuation.

The changes contributed to a $7 million overall boost in valuation for the Barry-Lawrence County Ambulance District, including $1,475,769 in new construction.

The Wheaton school district saw real estate valuations rise by more than $500,000 for a total valuation increase of nearly $900,000.

The Purdy school district saw an overall valuation increase of nearly $1.3 million.

The Cassville school district saw a $3.5 million increase in valuations, including a nearly $2 million boost in real estate values, which also covers lakefront property.

The Exeter school district recorded valuations up by nearly $900,000, rather evenly split between real estate and personal property assessments.

Lawrence County saw more modest but significant increases. The total valuation of $438,668,082, reflected a $9 million increase. Real estate values rose by $2 million and personal property rose by $4 million, possibly fueled, according to assessor Doug Bowerman, by the rise in cattle prices.

Unlike Barry County, Lawrence County separates state assessed railroad and utility assessments. That property rose in value by nearly $5 million.

Bowerman said real estate values in Lawrence County have remained fairly stable, even through the economic downturn. His assessment lacks the heavy industry portion of Monett, which fuels Barry County's numbers, leaving mostly residential property for his numbers.

"I try not to compare Lawrence County's numbers with other counties," Bowerman said. "It's hard to put your thumb on why there were changes. The Miller phone company has been installing new fiber optics, but that won't create much of an increase. There have been a few tunnel poultry houses added in the north part of the county.

"We've had several older-style barns that have been disassembled and are now gone. We do have a tremendous amount of cattle in the county."

The Aurora school district saw overall valuations rise by $500,000, almost all of which came from personal property. Real estate values increased by only $20,000.

The Marionville school district saw a $400,000 increase in valuation. Almost three-quarters of that came from personal property increases, and at the same time, commercial property values fell by more than $100,000.

The Mt. Vernon school district's real estate values, which barely budged for two years, jumped up by $1.5 million, aiding a nearly $3 million overall increase.

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