THE SALINE COUNTY APPRAISERS OFFICE
Sheryl (Sherry) Sammons, RMA
Saline County Appraiser
The authority for the office of county appraiser is contained in chapter 19 of the Kansas Statutes. This chapter provides the authorizing law for almost all county offices and the authority for county appraisers of one of the newest. When Kansas was organized as a territory, prior to statehood in 1865, the authority to assess property for tax purposes was in the office of CountyClerk. The job of establishing values for taxable property was usually performed by deputy assessors appointed by the CountyClerk. For most of the history of Kansas, there was a deputy assessor for each township. In more recent years the function of appraising property was relocated to the office of CountyAppraiser. In SalineCounty all appraisal functions were in the CountyClerks office until about 1976. In that year the legislature changed the law to require counties with a population greater then 20,000 to have a full time appraiser that was not an elected official.
The office of CountyAppraiser is somewhat unique in the way it is structured. County offices are generally thought to be of two types. First are the elected officials such as the CountyCommissioners, Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, and Sheriff. Secondly there are the appointed officials such as the Planning and Zoning director, County Engineer (with some exceptions), Community Corrections Director, and the Director of Farm, Parks and Weed. This second group generally serves the county in a typical employer/employee relationship. The CountyAppraiser is somewhere in the middle of these two. While he is appointed by the commission and generally participates in the pay and benefit plans as other appointed officials, he is appointed to a specific four year term of office. The Board of County Commissioners ability to remove the appraiser from office during the term is limited by statute. All county appraisers in the state are reappointed July 1 of each fourth year. The current term ends in 2009.
In order to serve as a CountyAppraiser, there are several requirements that one must meet. First a person must be placed on an “eligibility list” maintained by the Director of Property Valuation. In order to be on this list one must have three years of appraisal experience, must have completed two courses given by the International Association of Assessing Officers, and must have passed a comprehensive examination given by the Director of PVD. Additionally in order to maintain ones status on the eligibility list, one must complete 30 hours of continuing education each year. In addition to ones status on the eligibility list, a candidate for CountyAppraiser must also have achieved one of the following. A: Be a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser, B: Hold either the “Certified Appraisal Evaluator” or the “Residential Evaluation Specialist” designations given by the International Association of Assessing Officers, or C: Hold the “Registered Mass Appraiser” designation given by the Division of Property Valuation.
Since 1989 and the production of new values from the reappraisal project, the Office of County Appraiser has become a point of controversy in many counties. This has caused many Boards of County Commissioners to ask just how much authority does the commission have over the operation of the Appraisers office. When the current laws defining the office of CountyAppraiser were written, the goal was to remove as much political influence as possible from the appraisal process. In practice this has been achieved to a great extent. The CountyCommission of course, has the authority and responsibility to choose the CountyAppraiser to begin with. The commission has the authority to set the budget which ultimately determined salaries, staffing levels, technology expenditures, and education levels for the CountyAppraisers office. The Commission also has authority to set policy that determines much of the daily operation of all offices in the County.
The area in which the CountyCommission has no authority over the CountyAppraiser is in the determination of actual values for properties within the county. The procedures for the determination of these values are, for the most part, dictated by the Director of Property Valuation. The Director issues Reappraisal Maintenance Specifications which set out the framework of activities for the production of values each year. In addition there are Mapping Specifications, Sales Verification Procedures, valuation guides for personal property as well as oil and gas. There is also a set of Directives which has been published by the Director of PVD which generally clarify some issues or direct the County Appraiser to take some specific action with regard to specific circumstances.
At times there have been conflicts between PVD and the Counties over certain policies or procedures dictated by the state. In most cases these conflicts are decided in favor of the state. Counties at times see some state policies as nothing more than unfunded mandates for which County citizens are made to pay. Certainly many state policies can be viewed in this light. In SalineCounty however, these conflicts have been few. Our philosophy has been to do the best job possible with the resources available.
Current Operation and Organization
The CountyAppraisers office is organized to facilitate two main functions. These are: 1. The production of values for all real estate in the county. 2. The production of values for all taxable personal property in the county. Currently fifteen positions (including the CountyAppraiser) are authorized to sustain these functions.
The production of real estate values is the primary function of the office as it amounts to the largest portion of the taxable valuation in the county. This function includes the production and maintenance of a complete inventory of all property and improvements in the county. It also includes the installation and maintenance of valuation systems and methodologies for the production of values for each property in the county. Finally it includes the notification of the values to the taxpayers and the appeals process from the local informal appeals to the Board of Tax Appeals. The positions of Commercial Appraiser, Field Appraiser (4), Property Ownership Technician, and Real Estate Clerk (3), devote full time to the real estate valuation function. Additionally the CountyAppraiser, Assistant County Appraiser, and Clerical Supervisor also assist, to varying degrees, in the real estate valuation process.
The production of values for all taxable personal property includes the discovery, listing, valuation, notification, and hearing processes as with real estate. Most values are derived from published guides that are prescribed by the Director of PVD. Two Personal Property Clerks are devoted full time to the production of personal property values. The CountyAppraiser, Assistant County Appraiser, and Clerical Supervisor are also involved in the process.
The 2006 legislature exempted all newly purchased business machinery and equipment starting July 1, 2006. The effect of this for the Appraisers Office is that for 2008 and beyond we will see a continuing reduction in commercial personal property accounts. Up until 2008 we had a full time Personal Property Appraiser. With the advent of the 2006 legislative changes we eliminated that position and replaced it with a shared position with the Computer technology department. This new position was necessary to manage out increasing data base management needs.