Appeals dwindle with property values

With less than a week to go before the deadline for people to appeal tax assessments on their property, officials in the Island County Assessor’s Office are seeing fewer appeals filed than in recent years.

Assessor Dave Mattens said Monday that between 200 and 250 appeals have been filed with the Board of Equalization. He expects that number will increase as the Aug. 25 deadline draws near.

However, the number of appeals filed this year is a sharp decline from two years ago when 1,200 appeals were filed, and from last year when 560 appeals were filed.

Of the number of appeals filed in the past two years, 770 of them were heard by the Board of Equalization in 2006 and 350 were heard in 2007. The Assessor’s Office tries to settle disputes before they reach the board level.

Many people were alarmed in previous years because of the sharp increase in assessments on their property. That prompted those people to think their taxes would increase, Mattens said. He pointed out that while assessments did spike, local jurisdictions are generally limited to a 1 percent property tax increase. Nevertheless, higher assessments generally mean higher property taxes.

Assessments this year generally went up around 5 percent, Mattens said. People living in high-demand shoreline areas are seeing higher increases, generally between 20 percent and 40 percent, Mattens said.

With fewer appeals coming in, he said the Board of Equalization will start hearings in September and have them wrapped up by the end of the year.

That is faster than in the previous two years. For 2006, the board didn’t start hearings until March 2007 and didn’t finish them up until June. For 2007, the hearings didn’t start until December and didn’t finish them until February, 2008.

Mattens said the delay was caused by the volume of appeals and that the valuation notices weren’t mailed until later in the year.

This year the valuations were sent out to residents on June 25. He said he hopes to have them mailed out by June 1 next year.

He said he is going to make a change to the appeal period next year. Instead of offering a 60-day period to appeal assessments, he is planning to reduce that to a 30-day period.

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