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For the week of April 18 through April 24, 2001

12 appeal, win property tax cuts

Express Staff Writer

Following an order from the State Board of Tax Appeals, a dozen Blaine County farmers and ranchers have received a partial cancellation of their property taxes for year 2000. But county officials say the order is unfair because all other county residents will end up paying more.

The cancellation resulted from the state’s reassessing property values on 13 pieces of county agricultural land, in some cases slashing the value used for tax purposes by more than two-thirds.

One of the property owners to benefit most was rancher Bud Purdy. The state re-valued 5.7 acres of his land near Silver Creek from $298,272 to $75,000.

Most of the other landowners received smaller reductions. Assessments that were typically around $130,000 were reduced to $60,000.

Because they have already paid the first half of their property taxes for 2000 based on the higher assessments, the landowners are scheduled to receive credits on the second half of their 2000 taxes due in June.

In all, the county loses $6,258.48 in tax revenue through the 13 reassessments.

Officials said that’s not a large amount of money compared to the county’s $12.7 million budget. But what’s at stake, they said, is the county’s ability to tax all residents equitably. The dozen landowners received a tax break by causing their property to be assessed for less than it’s really worth.

Prompted by changes in the state tax code, the county assessor’s office last year discontinued some agricultural exemptions. Many farmers and ranchers found the tax value of their one-acre home sites increasing from about $17,000 to $130,000, causing a 700 percent increase in taxes.

Monday’s unanimous vote by the Blaine County Board of Commissioners to approve the Board of Tax Appeal’s order was the latest in a string of local and state appeals to overturn the increases.

Now, assessed values for the 13 landowners are higher than they were in 1999, but still not at fair market value, county Assessor Valdi Pace, said after Monday’s vote.

"I was attempting to do my job to have fair and equitable taxation in the county," she said of the increases. "We might have been a little aggressive, but the law states we’re to assess at current market value."

A written account of the most recent appeal states that Purdy argued he should not be assessed at a higher value because county zoning rules prevent him from subdividing the property and selling it to "reap the benefits."

The other property owners who received reduced assessments include Purdy’s son, Nick Purdy (from $125,000 to $75,000), Jerry Croce ($126,685 to $60,000), Kathleen Duggan ($127,875 to $60,000), Robert and Betty Logan ($131,405 to $60,000), Gregory Mann ($131,001 to $60,000), J.O. and Mary McDowell ($130,875 to $60,000), Paul and Lynn Ramm ($126,671 to $60,000), Ed and Jeannine Stricker ($116,644 to $60,000), John and Kristy Molyneux ($75,000 to $71,000), Scott and Cindy Smith ($136,906 to $60,000) and Michael Harris ($127,875 to $60,000).



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