It may be up to Arkansas' county quorum courts to force the state Assessment Coordination Division to do the right thing when it comes to poultry house valuations, suggested Boone County Justice of the Peace Jim Milum prior to the start of Tuesday night's committee meetings.
He was referring to the intent of the Assessment Coordination Division to update poultry house appraisals throughout the state. Milum informed the quorum court members that the state guidelines raise the square-foot valuation from $4.50 to $9 on broiler houses used to raise chickens for human consumption. No reason has been given for doubling the valuation.
The Assessment Coordination Division issued the new guidelines to county assessors in mid-2018. About half of Arkansas' counties have gone through reappraisals since then. It was noted some poultry farms in Boone County have been appraised under the new policy.
The Assessment Coordination Division is a state agency and the director (Bear Chaney) is hired by the governor. It seems like the director is going to stone wall this, Milum said. The director has continued moving forward even after the Legislative Council passed a resolution last year urging the Assessment Coordination Division to amend the chicken house guidelines it issued in 2018. It also asks the Joint Performance Review Committee to study how poultry houses should be assessed and recommend legislation on poultry house valuation.
Milum said he and JP Fred Woehl thought quorum courts of each county could do something to help. A simple resolution was drafted for the quorum court to consider in the near future, he said, and he proceeded to read it to the justices present.
It is titled "A Resolution Concerning Assessment of Real Estate Taxes on Poultry Buildings and Equipment." It points out poultry houses are a major part of the income to Boone County families and the increase in property tax will do financial harm to the poultry industry. It continues to state that the governor and state legislators should require the Assessment Coordination Division to follow administrative procedure laws and regulations required of state agencies. It also supports the Legislative Council's resolution passed last December. Milum said if the quorum court passes it and the county judge signs it, it would be forwarded to the governor. All counties would be encouraged to pass similar resolutions.
Woehl said the Assessment Coordination Division wants to appraise every poultry operation the same. "They're taking it away from our assessor." The county appraiser's role is to establish value, Woehl said. Justice of the Peace David Thompson said location makes a difference on valuation. "They're trying to use a uniform blanket and it's not uniform."
Justice of the Peace Roy Martin said he understands that it is time to update poultry house appraisals because they remained unchanged since 1995. "My taxes have gone up in the last 25 years."
Milum, a former state representative, said a public hearing process is required. The rate that is going to be charged can't be pulled out of a hat, he said. The values have to be determined and then the state legislature has to approve it. Then the rules and regulations have to be written and more local hearings have to be held before they can be adopted as law. There are about four steps that have to be taken.
Milum said poultry houses range in size from 18,000 up to 36,000 square feet. If this goes through, and a person who owns six 18,000 square foot houses, the tax bill will be an additional $3,600 a year.
The JPs agreed to present the resolution to the full quorum court at its regular meeting next week. They said the county assessor would be invited to add input towards making a decision on its passage.