St. Louis County residents may take pride seeing their property values increasing, but those hikes often translate into higher property tax bills.

Many county residents report that their preliminary assessments carry 17 to 22 percent increases, with higher tax bills to follow.

School, municipal and fire district officials also are known to cringe a bit when higher property assessments arrive about the same time they are campaigning for funding measures.

Recently released preliminary figures reveal a real estate market that is showing broad strength over the past two years. Compared with 2017, the typical property has gone up in value by approximately 15 percent.

Property owners in St. Louis County can now view their preliminary 2019 real estate values online at revenue.stlouisco.com/ias. These values are not final. Under Missouri law, the assessor’s office can review individual property values until July 1.

St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman urges property owners to carefully review information about their home on the county’s website.

“Our top priority is to get it right,” he said. “But with hundreds of thousands of properties to appraise, there will always be mistakes. No one knows your property better than you. If you see something wrong, say something.”

As Zimmerman puts it:

“If our records show more bathrooms than you really have, then we’ll get your home value wrong. That’s not fair, and that’s exactly what we want to fix.”

Zimmerman said assessor office figures impact property owners and school and fire districts. Setting the property values is the first step in the property tax process, but taxing districts are the ones that set the rates that determine what homeowners or businesses will pay.

Zimmerman said he kept his 2011 promise to end “drive-by assessments.”

“I think my election as assessor is because we have tried to be responsive,” said Zimmerman. “I promised in 2011 to end drive-by assessments and I have kept that promise. We take time to go on the premises for valuations on request.”

Zimmerman said valuations can be trickier in areas where tear-downs are happening to make way for McMansions in the midst of modest bungalows. That can result in wide variations in actual sale prices of neighborhood real estate.

“We strive for accurate comparables in evaluating your home property,” said Zimmerman. “We also have looked at other issues to arrive at a fair system.”

Zimmerman said one complaint he hears regularly is that home valuations and taxes are forcing seniors out of their homes. He said he has worked with state legislators to address that with a law that said property taxes won’t go up on a senior’s home until that home is sold.

“The (Missouri) legislature could do a lot to ease the tax burden – a fairer school funding formula all across the state would certainly help,” Zimmerman said. “Right now, I have to applaud Sen. Scott Sifton who has been working on a ‘Homestead Act’ that could give senior homeowners some relief with a home tax credit.”

Zimmerman said he is proud to have put real estate on the tax rolls that formerly avoided property taxes under the guise of being non-profits.

Tax Notices Coming

All residential property owners will be mailed change of assessment and projected tax liability notices in May. Beginning May 15 informal conferences for residential property owners can be scheduled by calling 314-615-4595.

“Our office encourages property owners to utilize this option, because they will be able to meet one-on-one with an appraiser and likely have their issues resolved without the need for a formal appeal,” Zimmerman said.

“A popular sport in the county right now is to complain about valuations. If you see something that looks wrong — talk to us. We will see if something can be done,” Zimmerman continued.

On July 1, the assessor will certify the 2019 Assessment Roll containing the final values. This date is set by Missouri statute and cannot be changed. By law, after July 1, the assessor cannot make changes to property values.