Fairness in Davidson County Property valuations


Vivian Wilhoite

As Metropolitan Government undertakes the budgeting process for the coming fiscal year, Mayor David Briley has asked departments to present budgets roughly equal to their current level of spending. With a budget projected to be slightly larger than the current year, this fiscal caution has raised questions about Nashville’s tax revenues and more broadly, the city’s economy.

Metro finance officials say they are prudently planning for a slight decline in property tax collections, which seems to be at odds with what taxpayers are seeing in their property valuations and their tax assessments resulting from the 2017 reappraisal year. That has prompted taxpayers to ask how rising values and slowing collections square with each other.

I want to assure Davidson County property owners that our office successfully completed the 2017 state-mandated property reappraisal. Our experienced team of deputy assessors and staff appraised 247,753 commercial & residential properties and one major result was that county-wide, the value of property in Davidson County rose an average of 37%. Other 2017 conclusions were that the total assessed value of commercial property in Davidson County to be $15.1 billion and the total assessed value of residential property is $14.1 billion, which means for the first time since year 2000, commercial property owners carried a greater share of the county’s tax burden than residential property owners.
Immediately after I took office, we vigorously reached out to property owners to educate them on the reappraisal process and on their rights and deadlines for appealing their property value if they disagreed. I am extremely proud of my staff for the hours they devoted to “accurately identify, list, appraise and classify all taxable properties in an effort to achieve fair and equity in values for the preparation of the annual assessment role in a timely manner.” This is our mission and it was accomplished.

Property owners have a number of options when appealing their appraisal. First, they can ask for an informal review with my office. This is an opportunity for us, at the request of the property owner, to take a second look at the property value with the property owner providing market comparatives, cost or income data regarding their property which we might not be aware. While 2017 was not a record year for the filing of informal reviews, the number of informal reviews filed was higher in comparison to 2013, the previous reappraisal period, but lower than the 2005 and 2009 reappraisal period. Thereby, this makes 2017 the third highest reappraisal year for the filing of informal reviews. In 2017, there were 9,841 informal reviews conducted through this process resulting in $190,419,694 of valuation adjustments.

“….while educating property owners of the appraisal process and their options to appeal, as well as learn of available assistance programs.”

One reason why we believe that informal reviews were not as high as expected was due to the more than 100 community outreach presentations and distribution of information to media outlets, NOAH, homeowners associations, church groups, individual council-members and residents attending their district meetings, and other various organizations countywide to educate property owners of the reappraisal process and their options for review and appeal while providing talking points to the Mayor and other community leaders. Additionally, we educated property owners of available assistance programs such as the Property Tax Assistance for seniors to sign up by June 30th of each year with the Metro Action Commission by calling 615-862-8860, extension 70124, and the Tax Freeze, Tax Relief and Tax Deferral programs for which citizens must sign up by April 5th of each year with the Office of the Davidson County Trustee by calling 615-862-6330. While we do not administer these programs, I believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to inform property owners of their available options.

If property owners were not satisfied with the decision from the informal review conducted by my office, they could request a formal appeal before the Metropolitan Board of Equalization (MBOE) or its hearing officers. The MBOE, whose members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Metro Council, is an independent panel of five (5) citizens and two (2) alternates and its independent hearing officers are tasked with reviewing property values of the owners who are not satisfied with the values determined by our office. In 2017, there were 7,177 formal appeals conducted through the formal appeals process resulting in $753,149,162 valuation adjustments.

A property owner who was not satisfied with the MBOE/hearing officers’ decision could appeal to the State Board of Equalization (SBOE), an independent panel of the State of Tennessee which hears property valuation cases statewide. There were approximately 1,954 appeals filed with the SBOE whose decisions for 2017 have not been completed.

The deadlines for 2017 informal reviews and formal appeals have passed. However, for 2018, property owners have the option of the same appeals process provided in 2017 beginning with the informal review with my office. As a matter of fact, property owners can appeal their property values annually. For 2018, we will accept notice of informal review until April 27, 2018 by 4:00 p.m.

While 2017 proved not to be a record year for the number of property reappraisal appeals, it did provide us some noteworthy results as I have conveyed above. In the end, it is not the number of appeals which impacts property tax collections. It is the decisions that resulted from those appeals. By law, property owners are provided the option to appeal both at the informal and formal levels. As decision makers, we simply must be knowledgeable regarding the market. We must also utilize the information provided by the property owners in order to make informed decisions, which in turn supports our city’s growth and provide property owners’ fair and equitable property valuations.

Vivian Wilhoite has served as Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Property Assessor since 2016. Previously, she served as a two-term member of the Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Council. She also served as a real estate appraiser for the Tennessee Public Service Commission (formerly the TN Regulatory Authority and now known as the TN Public Utilities Commission), and later became Chief of the TRA’s Consumer Services Division and statewide Consumer Outreach Manager where she served for close to 30 years.