Stillwater News Press

August 1, 2013

Aiming for fairness

By Nick Woodruff
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Wondering who could be knocking on your door?

It could be field appraisers from the Payne County Assessor’s office.

Field appraisers evaluate numerous parcels of land between May and October. There are three teams of field appraisers and each has approximately 4,000 parcels to appraise every year in Payne County.

State law requires each parcel of land to be appraised once every four years. Since Payne County has many rural and town areas, appraising land can be a timely process, said Jason Gomez, a Payne County Assessor’s office appraisal team leader.

Gomez worked one year for the Payne County Assessor’s office before he was promoted to team leader. He said he has learned a lot working for the assessor’s office, but the job makes a person learn something new every day.

Even though there is always something new and Gomez’s job is never boring, the favorite part of his job is the people, he said.

“I get to meet a lot of interesting people, a lot of friendly people,” Gomez said. “Being a Stillwater native, I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in awhile.”

Gomez considers himself a people person. He said the field appraiser’s job fits his personality.

Gomez said law requires appraisers evaluate every parcel of land and if they knocked on somebody’s door, the county assessor’s office doesn’t want those people to think they are harassing them.

Gomez said the appraisal system is structured and well planned. The office is required to appraise all land with structures in Payne County. He said people need to be informed about his job and it is important to the county and the people of the county the job is done correctly.

“We try to be fair,” Gomez said. “We try as hard as possible to do the best we can to evaluate the properties equally and fairly.”

Gomez said many people are protective of their property and the county understands people’s concern.

The Payne County Assessor’s office is going to appreciate people’s property and possessions, Gomez said.

He said if there is a “No Trespassing” sign, the office will do its best to contact those landowners to schedule an appointment or ask permission.

“‘No Trespassing’ signs don’t necessarily pertain to us,” Gomez said.

“By law, we are allowed to go on any property for tax purposes. We don’t do that just because we respect people’s property and we respect their animals.”

Even though the field appraisers won’t intrude on anybody, if access is hard to gain, the accuracy of the appraisal could be skewed, Gomez said.

Accuracy is important, and if the Payne County Assessor’s employees can’t access property, accuracy suffers, he said.

Field Appraiser Christine Gwin said the assessor’s office can sometimes have a bad reputation. She said access to land is important and the county assessor’s employees want to be fair and help everybody.

It’s important everything is correctly documented.

“I think in the beginning people are like, ‘Oh, here comes the assessor, they’re going to raise my taxes,’” Gwin said.

“I hear that a lot, but then once we have been able to talk to them, they seem to understand we are here for them.”