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Lancaster County property owners unhappy with the county's valuation of their home, business or land can formally challenge it beginning Saturday.

The County Assessor's Office on Friday will mail out nearly 100,000 letters notifying property owners of a change in their valuation from 2018 to 2019.

Valuations finalized in March were about 10% higher for homes, while ag land values dropped on average by 7.5% and commercial property valuations remained the same, according to the assessor's office.

The valuations could mean higher property taxes for homeowners should taxing authorities such as Lincoln Public Schools, the city of Lincoln and Lancaster County keep their tax rates for 2020 unchanged.

Driving the double-digit increase in home valuations is the hot housing market, Assessor Rob Ogden said.

"It's a seller's market," Ogden said.

Ogden said people weighing whether to protest a valuation they don't like should ask themselves if they could sell the property for that amount.

If they believe they can't and have supporting evidence, such as an appraisal from a recent refinancing, that will help a protest referee make a decision.

But general unhappiness about a higher valuation, for example, isn't likely on its own to sway the third-party referee, Ogden said.

Valuations are the result of comparing a property to the sales of similar properties in the area. 

"Not everybody moves the same because the market doesn't move the same," Chief Administrative Deputy Scott Gaines of the assessor's office said. 

There is no fee to file a protest with the County Clerk's Office.

All protests must be postmarked or received by the office at 555 S. 10th St. by July 1, and online filing begins Saturday.

The protests must include the reason for the protest, a legal description of the property, signature and the date.

Protesting property owners filing online can attach supporting documents, or they can be faxed, mailed or hand-delivered to the office.

A referee will weigh the assessor's report against the evidence backing the protest before making a recommendation to the Lancaster County Board, which sits as the County Board of Equalization.

The board will make a final value determination by Aug. 10.

If a property owner is still unsatisfied with the valuation, they can appeal to the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission.

If the assessor's valuations overall are not set close enough to market value, that same commission can order across-the-board property value changes.

Nebraska's property tax administrator, Ruth Swanson, concluded in an April 9 report that Lancaster County's assessments were acceptably close to market values.

For more information on the protest process, go to Lancaster.ne.gov/clerk/pvptime.htm.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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