“Accuracy is key,” says Gila County’s Chief Appraiser Steve Jenson.
He says that Arizona’s tax code is one of the most complicated in the country, but the role of the Gila County Assessor’s Office appraisers is simple: accurately determine a property’s value. “When we have the most accurate data possible, it’s better for everyone,” says Jenson.
“We’re proud that Gila County has kept its primary property tax rate from increasing for many years,” says District Two Supervisor Tim Humphrey. “The Gila County Assessor’s Office’s commitment to collecting and maintaining accurate data helps staff accurately determine our budget each year.”
Rebecca Parker, an appraiser for the Gila County Assessor’s Office, says that when she shows up on a property, the owner’s first reaction is often fear that she’s there to raise their taxes. Appraisers do not set or even collect taxes. They’re fellow taxpayers whose job it is to determine a property’s value as accurately as possible. A property’s assessed value is just one piece of the equation that determines how much the owner will pay in property taxes.
Parker and Amy Loyd, another appraiser for the Assessor’s Office, both have their assigned areas that they generally work in. However, they often work together, especially in outlying areas. Going out in pairs is safer and more efficient.
Their tool kits include a 100-foot measuring tape, a “beamer” laser measuring tool, camera, tool belts, protractors, a clipboard and plenty of water. The water is important because they’re much busier in the summer than the winter, but both Parker and Loyd love the fact that they get to be active outside as part of their jobs. Because they’re often working on active construction sites, they have hard hats too, but as a general rule, they do their best to not interfere with the contractors’ work. If a job site is particularly busy, they’ll stop back by the next day.
About once a month, they’ll get new permits and do an initial appraisal on projects such as new construction or additions. A project can’t be added to the tax rolls until it is 50 percent complete, so a significant part of their job is tracking progress.
When they collect data on a home, they look at features such as roof covering, roof type, and number of stories. They measure any garage space separately because it’s not considered livable space and is valued differently. When a home is nearing completion, they’ll start looking for features such as flooring. For residential projects, they follow a list of 17 components that help determine when a project is complete. In the field, they fill out a checklist, measure, and sketch a home or project’s footprint. When they return to the office, they enter the data into the office’s computer system and complete a more detailed, to-scale computer sketch.
Both Parker and Loyd enjoy it when their jobs give them the opportunity to do research, especially looking into the history of a home and seeing how it has changed over the years. This most often comes up in their off-season when they spend time on “recanvassing” existing properties to look for any changes.
Just like getting a clear picture of new construction, these recanvassing efforts are all in the name of accuracy. Jenson explains that all Gila County appraisers get state licensure by completing an apprenticeship program. Their records are audited monthly by the Arizona Department of Revenue’s property tax division.
Jensen encourages residents to speak up as soon as they see anything in their property’s valuation that seems off. It is important to note that you can appeal a notice of valuation, but you can’t appeal taxes. The Gila County Assessor’s Office is required to mail notices of valuation on or before March 1 of each year. “If you see something that seems odd, please file an appeal,” says Jenson.
Call the Gila County Assessor’s Office at 928-402-8714 or visit them at the Gila County Courthouse at 1400 E. Ash St. in Globe.