Ralph E. Phillips, Wetzel County Assessor, approached the Wetzel County Commission Tuesday morning to express his intentions to contract out field appraisal duties to Tyler Technologies of Dayton, Ohio.
Of the five contractors used by the state to evaluate the first 19 counties in the Statewide Property Tax Equalization Study, Tyler Technologies was the one who reviewed Wetzel County.
Tyler Technologies has developed a 2012 Reappraisal Services proposal for Wetzel County. This plan outlines that the appraisal of all of Wetzel County would take three years and would cost the county $306,000 for all three years of services-$106,000 for the first. Phillips stated that the money for such a project would come through funding that was set aside a number of years ago.
Wetzel County Assessor Ralph E. Phillips
He later reported that it is his intention to sign with Tyler Technologies for this year and it would be the new assessor's option to accept the proposed agreement for the next two years, as Phillips is retiring at the end of the year.
Reports released in December 2011 indicate that the findings provided by the Property Tax Equalization Study performed statewide from 2008-2011 found that the Wetzel County Assessor's Office had been out of compliance for three years with standards set by the Property Valuation Training and Procedures Commission. Assessors out of compliance for three years or more were required to provide the state with a written report by Jan. 11 and meet with the PVC in person on Jan. 18 for discussions.
The Statewide Property Tax Equalization Study Executive Summary for Tax Year 2008, as released to the public in 2010, lists the areas where the Wetzel County Assessor's Office does not meet acceptable standards as the following:
-procedures used by the WCAO to develop residential land tables
-procedures used by the State Tax Department to collect industrial real property data, as evidenced by a physical review of the sample provided
-procedures used by the WCAO to achieve appraisal uniformity between sold and unsold residential properties, as evidenced by a physical review of the sample provided
-procedures used by the WCAO to validate residential sales
-the assessment of residential improved real property as evidenced by the independent confirmation of sales data
-the assessment of residential vacant real property as evidenced by the independent confirmation of sales data
-the assessment of commercial real property as evidenced by the independent confirmation of sales data
-the assessment of industrial real property as evidenced by the independent confirmation of sales data,
Other area counties were found to be not compliant with the PVC as well. According to published reports, the tax study recommended that the Monongalia County Assessor, Rodney Pyles, reappraise every parcel in Monongalia County. A newspaper article stated, "Pyles earlier this year hired Tyler Technologies of Dayton, Ohio, to reappraise all of Monongalia County at one time. Now, many residents there are faced with the possibility of having to find hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars in their budgets just to keep up with their property taxes."
When asked if hiring Tyler Technologies was in response to the compliance issues with the PVC, Phillips responded, "We've been doing this (field appraisals) since 1990, all 55 counties with doing one-third of a county a year. And this year, due to the fact my field man quit, we are contracting it out. . .instead of trying to get someone hired in and trained." When asked about possible similarities in Monongalia County and Wetzel County's situations, Phillips responded, "We haven't experienced issues like that. . .And for years, we paid top dollar in taxes before other counties ever started in re-appraisal."
When asked how the assessor's office was responding to the issues brought up by the PVC, Phillips responded, "You know, there's going to be studies and stuff that hasn't taken place at this point that we'll be addressing. I wasn't the only one there." He said that one of the issues that was brought up were land tables but he differed with the PVC on that. He also said that the individual land values hadn't been increased. "Our grading process had increased, and they hadn't really looked at that."
When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Democrat Scott Lemley, who won the primary election for assessor and faces no opposition in November's general election, expressed that he has concerns about contracting the job of field appraiser out. "First and foremost, I'm concerned about the cost that this brings to the citizens of Wetzel County. And with it being the end of Ralph Phillips's term, I'm concerned with what I'm going to inherit with this contract and the potential negative impact that it's going to have on the citizens of Wetzel County. I have no say and no authority on the matter until Jan. 1, and I'm being bound to a contract." The contract runs from Aug. 1 to June 1, 2013. So five moths of the contract would be under Lemley's leadership of the office. "I have no authority over signing it, but I'm being obligated to it," said Lemley.
When asked how he would handle the Wetzel County Assessor Office's issues with the PVC, Lemley responded, "First of all, I'd have a conversation with the PVC committee through the state tax department to find out what the compliance issues exactly are. And then, from there, I would find out the best compromise between the PVC committee's recommendations and the best interests of the citizens of Wetzel County. I believe there is a happy medium some place that we don't have to go through all of this."