Property tax increases explained

Lawton_This is the time of year homeowners may dread.  This month, most homeowners in Comanche County received the dreaded letter telling them that their property taxes were increasing.  As usual, it has led to a lot of questions for the assessor's office.  It comes as no surprise to the assessor that most people simply want to know why they are paying so much more than last year, and if they can expect to pay even more next year.

There's no simple way to explain the reason for the increase in property tax, since a lot of different factors come into play.  However, the biggest factor in determining how much tax a homeowner pays is based on overall home sales - both new and used.

Although you may have lived in your home for 15 years, and you may have paid a lot less for it than current market value, taxable value of your home will adjust according to other homes' assessed values.  If your neighbor sells his home at today's prices, your home's taxable and assessed value will increase because the market value has also risen.  So, even if you didn't sell your home - your taxes will go up.

However, there is a cap.  "If the market value is greater than 5% higher than last year, we have to go up 5%," says Comanche County Assessor Charlotte Hamilton.  "If your market value is 3% higher than last year, we only go up 3% - that is not my option, that is the state law."  And, it's not across the board.  One side of town or one part of the county doesn't set values for other parts, and the same is true on a smaller scale.  "People think we look at your block or your street," says Hamilton.  "We don't.  We look at the entire neighborhood.  If it's Park Lane, we look at the entire Park Lane, not just one street or one block."

While parts of the country are seeing a sagging housing economy, Comanche County is not.  Construction is booming, and people are relocating here.  The influx of new residents equals more sales, at top dollar.  "A lot of people say, 'I can't sell it for that,'" says Hamilton.  "But if you start looking around, and put it on the market... they're selling."

Oklahoma offers some breaks on property taxes, including Homestead Exemptions, which saves homeowners around $100 per year.  There are also savings plans for seniors and veterans who are 100% disabled.  Last year about 80% of the $50 Million collected by Comanche County went to schools, and the remainder was allotted to the city and county governments, and the health department.  Out of about 53,000 parcels of property in Comanche County, around 22,000 did not see a tax increase this year.