Home values across the nation may be tanking, but that's not the case in Salt Lake County.

Assessed property values climbed about 3 percent countywide this year — a small increase in comparison to the hot market last year.

"There is a perception because of what we see in the national market that the real-estate market has totally tanked," Lee Gardner, Salt Lake County assessor, said. "But here, values are still on the upswing."

So don't expect a slashed property-tax valuation when it arrives this week.

Just like every other year, taxes will go up for some, down for others. If your home value didn't go up as high as the average home in the area, you'll likely pay lower taxes, unless there is a tax increase approved after a truth-in-taxation hearing. The numbers are based on values recorded on Jan. 1 of last year, compared to Jan. 1 of this year.

Last year, assessed values jumped 22.3 percent in Salt Lake County. The hot market involved the entire state, as the U.S. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight reported that Utah had the highest rate of home appreciation in the nation during the first quarter of 2007.

Three Utah metropolitan areas ranked in the nation's top five: Provo-Orem was second, Salt Lake City was third and Ogden-Clearfield was fifth.

And although appreciation isn't as high as years past, "the Salt Lake market still is fairly strong and robust compared to the national market," said Tom Leech, an economic and statistical manager at the Salt Lake County Assessor's Office.

The foothills along the east bench saw the highest property-value growth this year at 8 percent. East Millcreek home values are up 7.4 percent, and homes in the upper Sandy assessment area rose 4.9 percent.

Salt Lake City property values remained relatively stagnant, with a 0.24 percent jump, while home values in the Avenues jumped 1.8 percent.

Homes in the southwest area of the valley decreased in value by 1.3 percent. That's quite the change from last year, where values skyrocketed 28.6 percent.

Gardner said he's not in the business of philosophizing why home values are going up or down, but said that high gas prices could be in play in the southwest corner of the valley.

The construction boom out there might not be helping either, Leech said.

"There just hasn't been the demand to move out there and occupy it yet," Leech said.

Sticker shock from the jump in valuations for property in 2007 put taxpayers in an uproar. In Bountiful and North Salt Lake, property values for many residents doubled or more. That, combined with tax increases by four taxing entities, led to huge increases in property-tax bills.

County officials scrambled to find relief for homeowners through an equity adjustment, and the Utah Legislature took up the cause as well, and continues to study the state's property-tax system to bring some certainty to homeowners' property taxes.

Legislators have debated switching from assessor-based, fair-market values to acquisition values, removing school districts as entities that tax property and recently heard a proposal to eliminate property taxes entirely.

Gardner said the Davis County issues were an "aberration," and that the Legislature shouldn't tinker with the assessment system.

"The system works," Gardner said. "There is no perfect system out there. We will continue to improve."


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com