SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — The Utah Office of the State Auditor released a new tool earlier this week designed to examine property values throughout the state, but residents from Summit and Wasatch Counties won’t find their property information on it.
According to John Dougall, the Utah State Auditor, the new Property Values Tool was developed to help Utah residents identify comparable properties in their area, and to make property information that was previously difficult for his constituents to access more readily available.
“Over the years, people, for example, in Summit and Wasatch counties, expressed concerns about whether they were one being valued properly and to whether they’re being treated fairly with with their peers, if you will, other properties in their communities,” Dougall told TownLift. “And it was difficult for people to identify other comparables within their communities, and to go through any kind of appeal process when it came to that. And so what we wanted to do was provide a tool so that visually, you could see a heat map so you could see easily how the change in your property value compared to the changes of your neighbors.”
Although Summit and Wasatch were two of 10 counties throughout Utah that opted not to provide data for the Property Values Tool, Dougall had strong words for assessors in the Wasatch Back specifically in a press release on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, some assessors do not welcome greater access to public assessment data,” Dougall said. “I’m concerned with those county officials who create barriers, making it difficult or costly for taxpayers to access, analyze, and use public information. Over the past couple of years, Wasatch and Summit County property owners expressed concerns 2 with inequitable assessment in their counties. Yet their assessors failed to provide public information for this tool. Every Utahn should be troubled by those who struggle to effectively perform their constitutional duty and shun public engagement and oversight.”
However, according to Stephanie Poll, the Summit County Assessor, the Summit County Assessor’s Office opted out of the program in order to take a more personalized approach in presenting property value data to constituents.
“He [Dougall] keeps alluding to the fact that there’s only two counties when indeed there was actually 10 counties that opted not to participate in his program, that’s a third of the state,” Poll said. “He, in some of these interviews, would like to allude that the assessors throughout the state, they might have something to hide, when that is not the case… he tends to put a broad paintbrush on Summit County as if they’ve been under audit, and this is absolutely a false statement. Not last year, not this year not ever has Summit County been under audit by either the state tax commission or the state auditor.”
According to a spokesperson for the Summit County Assessor’s Office, the state requested a large data dump for its program, including information on abatements, disabled veterans, and blind and indigent abatements, but did not specify its parameters to protect this information. Although this information is already public, it is not disseminated in a broad manner.
“It should be clear that his staff was unable to articulate any clear parameters on the scope of their project, plain and simple,” Poll said. “So without any clear parameters, and knowing that we also had our app in development over the last year, our focus then was just to say, ‘look, we’ve got a tool for our taxpayers, that we can customize and really fit Summit County.”
The Summit County Assessor’s Office launched its own tool, the 2023 Property Value Map earlier this week. Using the heat maps provided, locals can visualize various aspects of the county assessment like market and taxable values, the area factor rate, quality, year built and square footage, in single family residences, condos and commercial properties.
The maps indicate a property’s price per square foot, as well as any percentage change from last year.
According to Poll, the feedback from residents who have used the Property Value Map so far has been good.
“There actually has been quite a bit of positive feedback, because they’re kind of excited to go out and look and to participate in it,” she said. “People are actually going out and using the app and enjoying it, and they’re doing what we’ve asked, contact that appraiser in your area, they can answer any questions that you have. So it seems to be being utilized, to what degree we don’t know just yet.”
When asked what he thought about Summit County’s new property valuation tool, Dougall said that he had not yet seen it.