Appraisal values projected to rise 3 percent

Staff Graphic

Smith County taxing entities will continue to budget with relatively flat revenues as preliminary appraisal values show modest gains and losses across the county.

Overall, values in Smith County continued slow gains and are projected to rise about 3 percent to almost $14.2 billion from almost $13.8 billion a year ago.

The city of Tyler's taxable value is expected to gain 3.24 percent, according to preliminary values.

Double-digit gains and losses by taxing entities were rare and isolated to jurisdictions mostly outside the county including Gladewater ISD, up 12 percent, and Kilgore College, up 10.3 percent.

Among 23 taxing jurisdictions, 20 experienced gains between 7 percent and 1 percent. Losses were limited to areas dependent on strong mineral values, such as Arp and Troup ISDs.

Jim Johnson, senior commercial appraiser, said additions to Texas Spine and Joint Hospital, new office space on Paluxy Drive and commercial and retail development along the Old Jacksonville corridor contributed to $180.5 million in new construction, up $15.5 million from last year. Total new construction is still low compared to 2008 when new construction values peaked at more than $413 million.

Smith County Chief Appraiser Mike Barnett said much of the new construction in Tyler was commercial and retail followed by steady residential growth.

Planned projects, including new commercial, retail and apartment sites, could bump next year's construction value totals, Barnett said.

Average home values continued steady increases around the county. The average home in Smith County rose to $140,638 from $138,337.

Barnett said the Tyler area's home inventory dipped below double digits for the first time since peaking at 15 months in May 2011. Home inventory is how long, based on the past year's sales rate, it would take to clear existing inventory, without new homes introduced into the market.

Other home markets in areas such as Dallas have rebounded as well, Barnett said. This could trigger an influx of home sales in Smith County as retirees sell off homes in metropolitan areas and buy homes here, Barnett said.

"Those people have been waiting for the market to recover," Barnett said. "We could see a growing number of retirees looking to buy homes in Tyler/Smith County because they're able to get value and sell."

There are plenty of positives, but slumping mineral values continue to hurt areas dependent on natural gas production.

Barnett said low natural gas prices continued to plague Arp ISD and Troup ISD as the districts continued the three-year trend of double-digit value losses.

Arp ISD dipped to $36.2 million from $53.7 million, or 32.6 percent, while Troup ISD dropped to $44 million from $59 million, or 25.5 percent. Growth in other sectors mitigated overall losses for the districts. Both are expected to have single-digit overall value losses for the first time in three years.

Lower natural gas prices also detracted from gains in other sectors for other taxing entities. But new drilling in Lindale triggered more than 101 percent gains there, to more than $32 million from $16.3 million.

On Tuesday during the county commissioners' first budget workshop, Commissioner Jeff Warr said he hopes the economy is recovering and poised for a period of growth. The court will know what it has to work with when values are certified around mid-July but they and other municipal officials understand they won't receive an influx of new money.

"I think the worst is behind us," he said. "Fortunately the last few years weren't as bad as other areas but hopefully we're looking at some good growth in the next few years."








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