More Frequent Aerial Photography for Property Tax Assessment in Alabama

This is a sample image from Pictometry. Baldwin County currently uses this company for aerial photography and Mobile County just approved a contract for 2017 assessments. The company allows 45 degree angle photos as well as images showing the traditional birds-eye view of property lots.

Mobile, AL (WKRG)
Mobile County is among a growing number of counties in the state that is increasing their use of aerial photography for property tax assessments. County officials say this will provide a more accurate picture of home value and land value in Mobile.

You could drive around and assess property values in Mobile County. That’s done but it’s time-consuming. That’s where aerial photography helps. Fresh pictures help assessors find homes or businesses that have either grown or shrunk quickly. The software compares lot images from the last aerial sweep to the most recent once and flags images that appear to have changed. Once they find the properties that may have had additions or demolitions, employees, and the revenue department has a closer look.

Here’s an example from Mobile County.  Here’s an image of a subdivision in Saraland in 2010.


Here’s the same subdivision four years later


“We want fresh photography of that ¼ area they’re going to be reappraising,” said GIS Manager Ronald Davis. They’ve been doing aerial photography every four years or so for the last 40 years.

The revenue commission will take aerial shots of all of Mobile County this year. Then just photograph a portion of the county every year after. Davis says fresh pictures help the department verify changes without necessarily having to send people out to a property.

“We don’t have to send a two-man crew out there 3-4 hours just to go out there and verify a building’s gone, we can look at photos and verify it’s gone and take it off,” said Davis. Baldwin County began annual aerial photography last year. According to Walt Lindsey with the Revenue Commissioner’s office, Baldwin County is in a contract to survey a third of the county every year. Last year they started with the Eastern Shore.

Here’s an example.  Here’s Rayne Plantation in Spanish Fort in 2013


Here is the same place three years later in the latest aerial photography set in 2016:



One of the reasons Mobile County or other counties around the state are doing aerial photography more often it that it’s become less expensive, in the mid 90’s it cost Mobile County around $1.4 million dollars to do a project like this now it’s only a quarter of that.

The new contractor Pictometry takes the traditional bird’s eye view pictures of homes and businesses–as well as images at a 45-degree angle which will make verifying property changes easier. Mobile County Revenue Commissioner Kim Hastie says up-to-date property assessment makes the tax system fairer.

EDIT:  The County Commission documents state the county is entering an agreement with “Pictometry”.  A Corporate spokesman for the company says “We’ve just gone through a rebrand so some documentation still refers to Pictometry, which is our imagery, but our corporate name is Eagleview.”

A county spokesman had another update.  Deena Pollard said while the County Commission agenda listed the cost of the contract at  $334,392.00 that number was incorrect.  “The item was unanimously approved, however the correct amount is $392, 266.50. It was corrected during the reading of that agenda item.”

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