The Gage County Board of Equalization received 78 property valuation protests this year.
The board received the protests on Wednesday, which were down from nearly 300 last year. There are around 16,000 parcels in Gage County.
Gage County Assessor Patricia Milligan said the process has gone smooth, with most property owners being cooperative.
“It’s been a nice year as far as them being friendly,” she said. "We’re really down.”
She added for comparison that neighboring Saline County received 93 protests and Lancaster County had around 3,700.
It was recommended that valuations for 46 of the protested properties be changed. Three protests were withdrawn.
Milligan said many people who contact her office with questions don’t end up filing protests after speaking with her, and construction deadlines are a frequent topic.
“One thing people don’t understand is everything is based on Jan. 1 completion,” she said. “That’s kind of a hard thing, when you see a house and somebody’s living in it but they maybe didn’t start it until February, moved in in the fall, and it doesn’t get taxed that whole year because of our Jan. 1 deadline.”
Additionally, Milligan said some protesters run into additional issues when they ask assessors to look at a particular structure.
“The problem is sometimes taxpayers will come in and want you to just look at one particular building they’re protesting,” she said. “Then, when we go out, we look at the whole farmstead. This building probably isn’t the problem at all, it’s these over here that have a whole lot more value than this one does.”
Members of the board also questioned how useful Pictometry has been for the assessor’s office, and how much revenue was generated from the service.
Similar in some ways to Google Earth, Pictometry is a mapping service that features two aerial mappings of Gage County which were taken three years apart and can help spot changes in the county.
It can also provide a three-dimensional look at buildings in the county, at a cost of $32,480 per year for six years.
Searches within the program are more accurate than Google’s free counterpart. It also provides a 3D view of buildings and allow specific measurements, with images rendered in greater detail.
Milligan said she doesn’t track specifically how much is generated from finding changes with the aerial mapping service, a practice that board member Dennis Byars asked her to change.
“I know your time is qualified and really restricted, but I think doing that comparison looking at what Pictometry cost(s) and what we’re picking up, I think that’s something that this board really should have as far as information,” he said.
Milligan said that, even with the service, it can be difficult to pinpoint some changes.
“The biggest problem I have that came up, too, is you can’t always tell the year of the building,” she said. “How long has it been out there? We’re still up pretty high in the sky. It gets very expensive when you go down lower, but that’s when you can really see the quality of the building.”
She added that Pictometry has prompted some interesting situations for the assessor’s office to deal with when it does notice new buildings or changes on a property.
“A few situations, too, that we’ve picked up from the flyover, the building has been there a couple years and it’s transferred owners,” she said. “There’s different things that we’ve come across that make it complicated. It should have been the previous owner that got the permit, so there’s various things that come up as you go along.”