Klamath County Assessor
Leonard Hill, Assessor
305 Main Street
Klamath Falls, OR 97601
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Who we are and what we do:
Someone has ruefully noted, "The Assessment & Taxation Departments are a county government’s greatest political liability and its greatest economic asset". Klamath County has 74 taxing districts and 16 special districts for whom fifty-seven million dollars ($57,000,000) in property taxes and fees will be collected and to whom that money will be distributed in 2008-09.
The purpose of the "ad-valorem" property tax system is to provide a financing mechanism for local governments such as cities, school districts, fire districts, park districts, vector control districts, road districts, cemetery districts, sanitary districts and special districts.
While county government is among those local taxing districts that receive property tax revenues, only 14.5 cents out of every dollar assessed (14.5%) is for the Klamath County General Fund. In effect, most of the work we do is on behalf of all the other taxing districts in the county and the patrons of those districts.
The Assessor’s Department is organized into two sections:
The Technical Support Section;
The Appraisal/Sales Data Section
The Technical Support Section is comprised of the following positions and responsibilities:
Two Mobile Home Techs: In addition to customer service, this team handles all the traditional assessment functions such as moving permits and the creation and maintenance of assessment records, plus all the functions of titling and registration that were formerly the responsibility of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Two Data Entry Techs: In addition to customer service, this team enters into the assessment computer system all the data from the reappraisal of ten thousand existing accounts. They also create new accounts from the appraisal of three thousand and more new properties and buildings per year. They are also in charge of the various exemption programs including the all important veterans’ exemptions and senior citizen deferral programs.
Personal Property Tech: In addition to customer service, personal property returns and equipment lists must be prepared and mailed to four thousand business accounts each year. Each business must file a confidential personal property return each year that must be reviewed for changes and accuracy, and processed into the assessment computer system.
Senior Cartographer: In addition to customer service, maintains the over 2,000 assessment maps by computer drafting all segregations, partitions and subdivisions. The cartographer works closely with County Surveyor, Planning and Information Technology departments.
Cartographic Tech: In addition to customer service, thousands of deed records and other recorded documents must be reviewed each year to track owners and their addresses for each of the 70,000+ accounts; this person also reviews deeds for correctness, and enters all changes into the assessment computer system.
In addition to the statutory requirements of each position, the Technical Support Section is responsible for responding to the telephone and public counter inquiries on a wide variety of assessment topics.
The Appraisal/Sales Data Section is comprised of the following positions and responsibilities:
A team of three appraisers handles the following:
a) Residential/Urban Appraisals & Segregations — one-sixth of the county (an average of 12,000 properties) is reappraised each year as well as all new parcels created by segregation, partition or subdivision, and all new residential construction.
b) Agricultural/Forest/Rural & Special Use — an extensive part of Klamath County is made up of agricultural and/or forest lands on which four separate values must be maintained and up-dated, and all of which come under special assessment provisions.
Commercial/Industrial appraisals — an extensive inventory of commercial and industrial properties must be appraised and reappraised each year. One appraiser specializes in this category of properties with part-time help of the Chief Appraiser.
Sales Data Analyst — collects, collates, verifies and analyzes all sales in the county each year. From this data a Certified Sales Ratio Report book is produced that sets the property value ”trends” for each year. The Sales Data Analyst also specializes in the reappraisal of manufactured structures (mobile homes).
Chief Appraiser — supervises all the above appraisal responsibilities, checks for accuracy and is a commercial/industrial specialist.
“Ad-valorem” means “according to value”. Since property taxes are assessed “according to value”, accurate real market values are all-important. Market value directly determines the amount of taxes assessed against a property for about 10% of the property accounts in Klamath County. It indirectly determines the amount of taxes of all other accounts by determining the “change property ratio” by which the “Assessed Value” of all other new properties is established. Additional reasons for maintaining “Real Market Value” under Measure 50 are presented in the section “Reasons Why We Need To Maintain Real Market Value”.
Since it is not feasible to physically appraise each of the 71,000 total property accounts every year, mass appraisal techniques have been adopted statewide. This involves appraising a limited number of properties each year and using area sales to adjust the prior years’ value of those properties not reappraised via the “trending” program based on the sales ratio study. State law requires that the assessor’s office make every effort to adjust the real market value of every property to as close to “100 percent of real market value” each year as is possible via the mass appraisal process.
Some properties are exempt from taxation, such as government buildings and property or that of charitable organizations. Some properties are assessed at less than market value such as farm or forestland. There are over 40 such statutory programs the assessor’s office administers.
It is the responsibility of the appraisal staff to determine the taxable status of each property. Appraising new construction is obviously a priority since new properties add new value, which add new revenue for each taxing district under Measure 50. Over three thousand new accounts were appraised last year.
Once values are established questions often arise as to the accuracy of the appraisal. This can be done by requesting an appraisal review at the assessor’s office, by appeal to the Board of Property Tax Appeals or to the Oregon Tax Court.