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Election: Assesor earns another term
In a recent editorial you encouraged more people to run for county office. I agree that a democracy depends on having good people willing to serve in public office and I can also understand from your position that contested elections sell more newspaper ads. I think it is also important to take a close look at the incumbent and ask do they need to be replaced or are they doing such a good job that we should support their desire to serve us for another four years.
One that I believe falls into the latter category is Tom Baenen, Island County assessor. You correctly pointed out that he probably gets more flack than any other county position because the message he hands out translates into how much taxes we will pay. It is almost human nature to believe that your property is worth less than what the assessor says until you go to sell it and then, miraculously, it is worth more!
So the first task in measuring how well Tom is doing is to sift though this natural level of complaints and ask if there are any real problems. One way to do that is to look at the state audits of the assessors office. They believe that the job he is doing is one of the best and fairest in the state. The ratios they calculate of appraised to actual value show that residential property is at 98 percent and commercial property is at 100 percent. Given that this is for over 60,000 parcels, it says that Tom has set up and maintained a very accurate appraisal system and seen that it is fairly applied over the entire county.
The second question is how good a manager is he? Of course part of that answer is in the last paragraph. In addition consider that he has the same number of people working in the office today as were there when he came in eight years ago, even though both the number of parcels and the total valuation have gone up over 20-percent. He has done this in part by bringing in technology in the form of laptop computers and digital cameras for all appraisers. This has allowed the appraisers to cover more territory and to look more closely at all appraisals, finding pieces missed in prior years. Tom paid for this technology by not backfilling when a staff reservist went on active duty, by waiting a bit to fill vacant positions, and by hiring trainees in place of retiring journeymen appraisers. Tom has also computerized all the county maps allowing both staff and citizens to quickly look up parcels on a computer instead of going through paper maps.
These facts, and many more, say to me that Tom is doing an excellent job, that he is a fair and honest assessor, and that he is a forward thinking, resourceful, and efficient manager. I think that we should be thankful that he is running again and give him our whole hearted support. I encourage all of Island County to do so.
Martin S. (Marty) Matthews