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Lawmakers Look Into Aerial Reassessments of Property Values

Chris M Morris
Flickr (creative commons license)

  Every four years, Kentucky counties are required to reassess property values and make a “physical” observation of each property according to state law.

However, “physical” has taken on a new meaning for property owners around the state-- property valuation administrators in 57 of Kentucky’s 120 counties now use aerial imagery called Pictometry to make assessments.

Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator Tony Lindauer told a legislative committee Wednesday that his county found $35 million in undocumented property the first year his office used Pictometry.

“We’ve found that Pictometry is not only more efficient, but is actually more accurate,” Lindauer said.

Pictometry allows PVAs to look at aerial photos of properties to see if improvements such as additions have been made.

The process has come under fire as property values have been reassessed upward, especially in some wealthy Louisville neighborhoods.

With more than 60,000 Louisville homes reassessed this year, there were reports of homes receiving 30, 40 and even 150 percent increases in property value from the last round of assessments.

Louisville Democratic Representative Kevin Bratcher says that PVAs are breaking the law by using aerial inspections instead of coming on-site.

“The law says you need to make a physical inspection every four years. And I don’t know if that’s being done or not,” Bratcher said.

Some argue that a “physical” inspection includes looking at an aerial image.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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