Letters to the Editor

A futile effort to cut taxes

Let’s see if I have this correct. The Island County commissioners estimate the revenue and set the budget accordingly. By law, the county cannot go into debt.

So when revenue falls short of estimates, as usual, there is only one viable source for more money — increase property taxes.

Now, the folks down at the Island County Assessor’s office are a friendly lot and try to be helpful as far as information goes. Being a slow learner, they spent a lot of time with me, and here is what I learned.

The true market value of one’s home has little to no bearing on one’s property taxes. When a shortfall in revenue appears, the land owner is called upon to make up the difference.

A year or so ago, I purchased for $660,000. Twice, it was appraised for that same amount by bank appointed appraisers. A mere month or so later, and in a falling home market, a county assessor appraised my home for approximately $720,000, a $60,000 increase in six weeks. When I questioned the county, it was explained to me the increase was just paying my “fair” share.

I filed with the Board of Equalization for a hearing. It was a complete farce. My first telephone encounter with them was “Grumpy Old Men, Part III.” Because of a previous commitment, I politely asked for a different time. Their answer was not only no, but absolutely no — never!

I hired a very successful real estate professional to represent me who had been in the business for many years. She presented prima facie evidence predicated on similar home sales, unsold homes and times on the market on my behalf, as one may do. However, according to her, the board barely looked at it. Apparently they must receive it, but they don’t have to consider it, at least seriously.

This individual was, in her own words, treated in a most disrespectful manner and unceremoniously dismissed presenting no evidence to override the assessor. It was she who coined her meeting with the board as “Grumpy Old Men, III.”

I had been advised by a commercial land owner in the county that meeting with the Board of Equalization was a complete waste of time. How right he was! My opinion is that this board, as seated, serves the coffers of the county but not the individual taxpayer. Their attitude was pay up or take the county to court.

Of course, that recourse is great for attorneys, but financially unacceptable for victims of the tax laws. Government, as always, wins again.

I proudly display a bumper sticker which says, “I love my country, but I fear my government.”

Bill Schoonover

Oak Harbor

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