Ready to help legislators fix assessment issues

Editor,

Al Williams, in his Nov. 18 letter to the editor, makes some interesting points in his response to my own Nov. 15 letter to the editor about assessed valuations.

Purchase price, if with no strings attached, would make an accurate market valuation to base property taxes upon. More accurate by definition than the assessed valuation. State law requires market value.

But that purchase price value cannot in all fairness remain the same, or even increase by 2 percent each year as California’s Proposition 13 allows. Why? That’s a great deal for long-term owners and a lousy deal for first time buyers who can least afford to carry the tax burden.

So, assessed value determined by purchase price modified each year by the assessor’s determination of inflation or deflation for similarly valued areas, for similar types of property, would be a great improvement over the current system. Simpler, less costly, more transparent.

But this proposal would be a huge change for Washington when our Island County Assessor doesn’t even comply with current law. Department of Revenue, providing assessor oversight, is a big part of the problem.

Representatives Dave Hayes and Norma Smith and Sen. Barbara Bailey don’t seem willing to tackle this issue. I’ve gone to Olympia twice to testify before the Ways and Means Committee. They “went to lunch,” literally one minute into my testimony, after driving four and a half hours to get there.

In summary, I offer the following suggestions:

1) Obey current law.

2) Appeals should be settled before the next year’s assessment comes out. I am now waiting for a 2012 state appeal decision. And the assessor must follow previous appeal decisions. Currently, the Island County Assessor ignores appeal decisions years following.

3) Throw out the comparable sale/property grid software. It does not comply with Washington law.

4) Properly educate Board of Equalization appeal members. This is not an “opinion of valuation” process.

5) Agricultural current use participants should comply with the best practices — environmental stewardship practices — in order to qualify for a tax reduction.

6) Forest current use should have their tax benefit be proportional to the site index of their land, which is a commercial measurement of timber growing potential.

7) Environmental easements such as wetlands and wildlife habitat preservation, should provide an assessed valuation reduction similarly to agricultural, timber and open space current use plans. Public benefit results from these encumbrances.

8) Finally, work on a variation of Mr. Williams’ suggestion where fair market purchase price becomes the initial assessed valuation.

Are you listening reps Hayes and Smith and Sen. Bailey? There is work to be done. I am your resource if you are willing to make much needed change.

Tim Verschuyl

Oak Harbor

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