investigate resortís tax
Express Staff Writer
Valley resident, who believes that property taxes are being unfairly
assessed, has filed a written complaint with Idaho State Tax Commission.
The complaint has spurred the commission to begin launching an
investigation of the assessment of Sun Valley Resort property by Blaine
County Assessorís Office.
the office set the value of Sun Valley Co.ís 50-acre commercial core ó
the location of the resortís famous lodge, ice rink and mall ó at
$247,900 per acre for tax purposes. The question raised, however, is
whether that amount is too low compared to the value set on other nearby
property. The assessorís office, for example, set the value of
commercial property two miles west in downtown Ketchum at $4.4 million per
the assessment, the lower the property taxes. If the resortís assessment
is too low, then the countyís tax burden is unfairly shifted away from
the resort owners to other tax payers.
who was elected to head the assessorís office three years ago, is
comfortable with the numbers, even though she did not personally calculate
them and cannot fully explain them, because, in part, she is trained in
residential appraising, she said, not commercial.
look forward to the Tax Commission coming in here and doing an
investigation," she said. "Because if weíre not doing
something correctly, I definitely want to be the first one to change it.
But I donít feel uncomfortable. I donít feel that this value is out of
for the previous month declined to discuss the issue publicly, agreed to
an interview last week. She had new information that could help explain
the resortís seemingly low valuation.
the assessorís office set the value of the land in the resortís
50-acre commercial core at $14.7 million, more than $2 million higher than
billionaire Earl Holding had purchased the entire 2,154-acre resort,
including ski lifts, buildings, land and equipment, for only $12 million
just three years earlier in April 1977.
balked at the countyís higher assessment, which climbed to $21.5 million
for the entire resort by 1982. Resort managers unsuccessfully filed an
appeal with the county Board of Equalization, then with the Idaho Board of
Tax Appeals and then in Fifth District Court.
All this is
documented in a two-decade-old file that was apparently recently
rediscovered in the county courthouse.
documents in the file reveal, was settled in 1983 by a California
arbitrator, who reset the entire resortís tax valuation at $12.5 million
for 1980 and then tied any future increases to the Consumer Price Index,
or 2 percent annually, whichever was lower.
on the size of increases appear to have subsequently changed to allow for
greater increases, but just how or when the rules changed is not clear.
State law now requires the county to assess land at market value, which
has increased by far more than 2 percent annually for several years.
head appraiser, Ken Haught, said that he personally did the appraisal work
on Sun Valley Co.ís 50 acres in 1990, when he set its value at $14.9
million, and in 1995, when he set the value at around $16 million. Then,
between 1995 and 2001, the value went as low as $9.9 million, before a
county appraiser increased it to the current value of $12.4 million.
"I donít know why," Haught said.
other assessors keep few notes of their appraisal methods. A short
hand-written comment on the 2001 appraisal card for the 50 acres states
that the appraiser simply increased the previous $9.9 million assessment
by 25 percent.
she did is she just figured a 25 percent increase in value from the last
physical inspection to this physical inspection," Haught said.
"She probably looked at growth rates," gleaned from information
property sellers voluntarily provide to the county, to determine the
usual methods of assessing value donít apply to Sun Valley Resort
because it is a unique piece of property that canít be compared to other
property in the county.
He and Pace
declined to comment on what effect they believe the 1983 arbitration has
on the amount of taxes Sun Valley Resort pays today.
an attorney from the Idaho Attorney Generalís Office and an appraiser
from outside Blaine County would conduct the investigation, which might
not be completed until May.