If you have ever bought or sold a home in Douglas County, chances are you relied on the Assessor’s Office to help you find the value of a specific parcel or property. The Assessor’s primary responsibility is to appraise property for tax purposes, but the office is busy serving the public and working with the treasurer, recorder’s, and geographic information systems’ offices to serve the combined needs of the public entire county.
“The three offices, including the recorder, treasurer, assessor, work very well together,” said Douglas County Assessor Doug Sonnemann. “Deeds and maps are filed in the Recorder’s office, the assessor’s office labels them to each parcel and use the sales information to establish values which are then transferred to the treasurer’s office, which sends out the tax bills based on the compiled information of the three offices.”
A large function of the Assessor’s Office is to provide current address information for property owners and deed references on ownership and parceling as recorded in the Recorder’s office. What really keeps the Assessor’s Office busy is the discovery and measurement of new construction activities. The county building department provides copies of all the permits they issue on a monthly basis giving the Assessor a starting point to go out in the field to measure any new houses, additions, commercial buildings, patios, garages etc.
“We physically measure each newly built item, diagram the change in our drawing program and then value it for the upcoming tax year starting July 1,” said Sonnemann. “Being able to get out in the field and check new construction is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.”
The Assessor’s Office revalues every property in Douglas County every year. This amounts to just over 28,000 parcels.
“With the market conditions over the last several years this has been a necessity as prices have so dramatically changed,” said Sonneman. “Our process is always about a year behind due to the timeline restrictions that are built into Nevada Statutes that govern how we must establish taxable values. With that in mind an annual reappraisal allows us to better keep up with market conditions especially in a decreasing market.”
Previously the assessor reappraised every five years on a rotating basis with adjustment factors in between. Fortunately the market has shown significant improvement recently which makes it easier to keep within our mandate of not being over market value.
“Property taxes are billed based on property values and make up approximately 45 percent of the budget for Douglas County,” said Sonnemann.
The Assessor’s office also values personal property. Personal property includes mobile homes, business assets, aircraft, billboards and even the hangars the county leases at the airport. Not all personal property items however are taxable. Homeowner items such as furniture and other household items as well as business inventories are exempt by statue from taxation.
The public relies heavily on the information provided online through their website, with their site being the number one visited site on the county’s webpage. Their website compiles sales ownership and values in one easy to access site. The public can check ownership, their property size and description and area sales if they want to get an idea of what their property is worth and what neighborhood sales activity is occurring.
“We have made every effort to expand our internet availability to make information more accessible to the public at all times,” said Sonnemann. “This increases people’s ability to check their information at their convenience and reduces the office personnel required to answer phone calls and inquiries. We have embraced new technology and enhanced computer programs allow easier and more efficient appraisal of properties, decreasing personnel costs.”
One other very important task the Assessor administers is the statute that allows for exemptions. There are very few exemptions available in Nevada.
The most widely used exemptions are the veteran’s and surviving spouse exemptions. Veterans with their DD214 discharge papers with an honorable discharge can get a property tax exemption that can be used either on their property tax assessment or their vehicle registration. On a vehicle this amounts to a $100 reduction in the government services fee. Surviving spouse can also get an exemption which provides for a $50 reduction in the government services tax or can be used on their property tax assessment and people can qualify for both exemptions.
According to Sonnemann, Douglas County’s Assessor is a unique office to the state of Nevada.
“We are the biggest of the small counties and the smallest of the big counties,” said Sonnemann. “We have all of the complications of the two large counties and still have the personal service of a small county office providing close contact with the public. We have a wonderful office and staff and enjoy working with the other county offices and the public.”