By Matt Goodman

Killeen Daily Herald

The 2009 Bell County tax appraisal roll is finalized and shows mere 3.5 percent increase in countywide taxable property values.

That's far below the past five years when the smallest increase in the county was 10 percent – a rate that Jose Segarro, spokesman for the Fort Hood Association of Realtors, believes does accurately represent the true property value of real estate in the area.

"Property values are pretty even as to what we were at last year," he said, "so hopefully that's why (tax rates) are not going up as much."

In 2008, the county's taxable property value was $13.3 billion, up from $12.8 billion last year. In 2007, the county's tax roll was valued at $11.7 billion.

"For the past several years, with the economy being strong, we were running double-digit increases just about every year," chief appraiser Marvin Hahn said. "This year with the economy being the way it is, and then the less amount of construction with new buildings and stuff like that, we only improved about 3.5 percent."

Hahn said the appraisal district appraised about 18 percent of homes higher than in 2008. Thirty percent were appraised lower and about 41 percent stayed the same. Notices were mailed to residences that increased in taxable property value on April 1; commercial properties that increased were mailed a notice May 1. Owners had 30 days to protest the appraisal. All investigations of the protests were finalized July 17.

"The only ones we send an appraisal notice to are the ones that went up," Hahn said. "And from about 160,000 properties, we only raised the value for about 18 percent of those, and those include the ones who had new value added to them or construction."

Tax statements are sent out in October and property owners have until January to pay them off. This gives the owners flexibility in spacing out the payments.

"We're in the process of calculating tax rates and then the entities will put out budgets and set tax rates over the next couple of months," Hahn said.

For Segarro, the 2009 appraisal rates are the best the market has seen in years. They still don't match average home value in the area – at least in and around Killeen – but it's not as large and confusing a jump as it recently has been.

Since 2006, the housing market has been on a slow and steady incline. Average property values slowly ascended, increasing 5 percent from 2006 to 2007 ($117,541 to $123,423 per house) and 3 percent from 2007 to 2008 (2008 closed at $127,407). In direct contrast, appraisal rates in 2006 to 2007 shot up about 11 percent and 10 percent the following year.

But so far in 2009, home values have been on a roller coaster. The average price of a home in January was $114,815; in June it reached $128,000. Its high point was in May of $128,551.

So while the current average home value is $123,864 – just under a 3 percent decrease from last year – the market could continue to improve and by the end of the year see a 3 percent increase from 2008, matching the new appraisal rate, Segarro said.

"We're still not seeing a 3 percent, maybe by the end of the year we'll get there," he said. "But (the appraised rate) is more in line than all those previous years; we've always had about a 3 percent increase and we get a 10 (percent increase)."

Contact Matt Goodman at or (254) 501-7550.

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