Thursday, July 31, 2008

Property Taxes: Goal Is to Get it Right

Something really poisonous was said about property taxes at Tuesday's county board meeting.

A lawyer speaking on behalf of a client said the client told him that when the client, in the course of protesting the valuation increase on her home a few years ago, noted with surprise how much the valuation on her home had increased, she was told that there was "pressure to produce more revenue."

In other words, the directive has come from county government to stick it to taxpayers, push up those valuations, and get more property tax revenue flowing into government coffers.

The county assessor, Roger Morrissey, was in the chamber when that story was told. When the lawyer finished his presentation and left the podium, Morrissey engaged him in a rather animated conversation. They took it outside the chamber and continued in the hallway. Someone inside got up and closed a nearby door to block the sound of that animated conversation.

I guessed that Morrissey was worked up about the "pressure" comment. So was I. I left my place at the commissioners' table and joined the conversation in the hallway outside the chamber.

I figured Morrissey was saying that the lawyer should produce a name or else make such assertions about someone in the assessor's office making such a statement.

Turns out, according the lawyer's client, that it was a referee reviewing her protest. That's one of our people! The county board hires professional appraisers to serve as referees and review valuation protests. The whole point is to bring in neutral professionals who have no interest in winners and losers. They just apply their professional judgment and come up with what they believe is the right number.

The building of the county budget and the setting of the county's property tax rate happens in a whole other universe separate from the protest process. The referees do not get commissions or any other kinds of rewards based on results. There is no pressure or incentive of any kind. Referees get the same fee no matter specific cases play out.

I can only guess that the lawyer's client misunderstood what was said to her. Quite frankly, it's hard to believe that any referee would be stupid enough to say such a thing. More importantly, it's not true.

We have enough taxpayer frustration with the property tax system. We don't need the situation unnecessarily poisoned with such an unfounded assertion.


OmaSteak said...

So someone involved directly with the property tax assessment/appeal process spoke the truth and you got upset about it??? I guess no one is supposed to point out that elephant standing in the corner which in this case is "pressure" to inflate assessments so city/county/schools get more budget dollars without raising the property tax rates. You clowns in government are spending taxpayer dollars on programs/services that are no business of government to begin with. Plus you all want to build your little empires which requires ever-increasing amounts of taxes. If you truly don't believe there is "pressure to increase valuations" then you're either blind, ignorant or deliberately deluding yourself.

OmaSteak said...

I see Roger Morrissey and his crew are doing another excellent job with their assessment process. Nearly 2/3 of protests resulted in lowered valuations and that's with a protest process that was deliberately made less accessible. How about just defunding the Assessor's office altogether? He and his minions seem to be invulnerable to any consequences of "mistakes". You guys let the NE Furniture Mart, mansion owners, etc. get away with murder on valuations but just hide in the corner when it comes to joe average property tax payers.