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Firm hired to do county’s mass appraisal
Appraiser’s Office facing tight deadlines
wendy prosser
Barton County Appraiser Wendy Prosser addresses the County Commission Wednesday morning about hiring an outside firm to handle the county’s mass appraisal analysis. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission  meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Approved the designation of official depositories for county funds. Named were the 10 banks in Barton County and the Kansas Municipal Investment Pool.

• Approved a resolution on reissuing of outdated checks and submission of payments to the Kansas State Treasurer, Unclaimed Property Division.

Generally, uncashed checks under $100 will be reissued and monies owed for uncashed checks over $100 will be submitted to the Kansas Treasurer’s Office less the bank fee for voiding the check, County Treasurer Jim Jordan said.

Previously, the county had no resolution of file covering this, he said.

• Approved a resolution creating a cost application for the installation of culverts or entrances.

This rescinds and updates a 2003 resolution. Updates include detailing both the county’s and the property owner’s financial obligations and defining “culvert,” County Operations Director Matt Patzner said.

• Ratified the repair of a 2012 Ford F-350 for the Road and Bridge Department. The vehicle required an engine replacement at a cost of $22,000.

• Approved the use of Emporia-based Equitable Solutions to handle mass appraisal analysis for the county.

Equitable Solutions provides property assessment and valuation services throughout Kansas and nationwide, said County Appraiser Wendy Prosser.

• Held a study session to discuss resolutions presented by District 1 Commission Kirby Krier concerning procedures for economic development expenditures and a salary policy for elected officials.

With a deadline looming and a new staff lacking needed training, Barton County Appraiser Wendy Prosser Wednesday morning asked the County Commission to ratify her use of Emporia-based Equitable Solutions LLC. to handle mass appraisal analysis for the county. 

Commissioners understood the time constraints and obliged. The county is paying the firm $28,000 for the work, but because Prosser has been short staffed, she said she has the money in her budget to pay for this expense.

Equitable Solutions provides property assessment and valuation services throughout Kansas and nationwide. “Use of an outside agency to perform this analysis ensures fair and equitable values through land valuation, commercial depreciation, income and expense analysis, rate studies and a review,”  Prosser said.

“Our County Appraiser’s Office is statutorily obligated to notify owners of their valuations on or before March 1 of each year,” she said. But, “this year, like so many of our local businesses, we have been unable to fill positions over the last couple of years.”

Thankfully, now they are fully staffed. But, “unfortunately, because of the education requirements that are out there to be able to set our valuations, our new employees have not met those education requirements as of yet and so they are not able to help us set valuations for 2023.

“It’s not that I can just send them out to the college and take a course,” she said. These are three specialized courses put on by the Kansas Department of Revenue Property Valuation Division and the International Appraisers Association.   

The staff members are enrolled to take the training this spring and will be ready by fall.

“Furthermore, one staff member has recently suffered an unexpected health emergency and will not be able to assist with the valuations this year,” she said.

“With our statutory deadlines looming, the County Appraiser’s Office reached out to  third-party analytical consultant Equitable Solutions to assist us in the commercial real estate analysis and our commercial real estate valuations for 2023,” she said.  It is a consulting business that offers these services throughout the state of Kansas, including Rush, Russell and McPherson counties.

“They will help provide commercial land valuation, commercial depreciation analysis, income and expense analysis, studies and commercial valuation reviews,” she said. “By contracting with Equitable Solutions,  the Barton County Appraisers Office can continue to provide the critical valuations to its citizens and continue to meet statutory deadlines.”

“Is this a better way to go about doing this kind of business or is it better to have it in house?” District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said.

“There’s pros and cons of each,” Prosser said.

Smaller counties with smaller appraiser departments will contract out the work. But, “in Barton County, in the past, we’ve always been big enough that we have done the in house analysis ourselves. However, because of time constraints, these companies that are out there.”

And, she said, these firms cover large areas and  have access to regional data which may not be available to a local appraiser’s office. “They are able to come up with some very good analysis looking at regional studies.”

Even though the work  is being done by a third party, “I have the ultimate say,” she said. “They’re going to set the values and then I’m going to go back and review everything.”

She will also handle any appeals made, and will make the appeal decisions.

She has access to all the analysis that’s being done. And she’s been in communication almost on a daily basis with the company about their ideas, the things they’re looking at.

“These are different approaches they have  available to them that I may not necessarily have,” she said. “So it’s been a learning experience already for me as well.”

“I like where you’re going,” commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3, said. They need to see how this goes and decide whether or not it may be worth doing again.