Wednesday, July 22, 2009

County sees huge appeals increase

Officials reversed assessments on 227 properties in Blaine County

Express Staff Writer

During the June appeal period, 401 homeowners, including many condo owners, submitted official appeals of their assessments with the county, Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace told the County Commission Tuesday. Photo by Mountain Express

This year's appeals of Blaine County property tax assessments increased ten-fold over those submitted in 2008, officials at the county Assessor's Office report.

During the June 1-22 appeal period, 401 homeowners submitted an official appeal of their assessments with the county, Blaine County Assessor Valdi Pace told the County Commission during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Just 40 homeowners submitted appeals in 2008.

Pace said this year's number may be the highest ever, though she'll have to check to be sure.

"It's the second highest if not the highest," she said.

Over the past several weeks, the Blaine County Commission—acting in its secondary role as the county Board of Equalization—listened to each of those homeowners appeal the assessments. In the end, Pace said, the board sided with the owners of 227 properties and agreed to change their assessments.

Pace said many appeals were from the owners of condominiums who live most of the year in places where housing markets are even worse than they are here, and were surprised to see the value of their condominiums increasing. Pace had earlier pointed out that many of the county's condominiums had not been reassessed for several years.

"The condo calls were overwhelming," Pace said.

Pace said a large percentage of the remaining appeals were for bare lots in the Old Cutters and Northridge subdivisions in Hailey.

Where the board of equalization agreed with the appeals and changed assessments on condominiums, a tally that included condominium units in 13 developments, they've asked Pace to go back and equalize the values on all similar condominiums whose assessments weren't appealed.

Pace said the common theme the staff at the assessor's office heard from property owners was confusion over increases in their assessments while the housing market remains slow or nearly non-existent. But she pointed out that the assessments the county sent out to homeowners this spring are based on real estate sales data from 2008. Sales data from January on will be incorporated in next year's assessments.

Pace said that while the board of equalization did end up changing more than 200 property assessments, the values on the large majority of properties in the county will remain as they are. In all, she said, there are about 21,000 parcels in Blaine County.

"We can pretty much support most of what we did," she said.

In the coming week, Pace will be tallying all of the changes to the original assessments and coming up with a final assessed value for all private property in the county. In June, Pace put the preliminary assessed value for the entire county at $11.9 billion, roughly half a billion dollars less than last year's, which was $12.4 billion.

Pace said the last time the overall assessed value of the county dropped was in 1986.

One benefit of all the appeals this year is the better picture it provides the assessor's office of county property values, Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said Tuesday.

Jason Kauffman:

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