Letters to the Editor

The rest of the story on Mattens

Our Assessor Dave Mattens is taking heat for errors made by one of his staff. He is getting it corrected. The error resulted in incorrect property tax bills over on Camano Island.

We followed the last Assessor’s election campaign with interest and remember Dave Mattens running on a platform of improving the honesty of the system with much needed updated computer software. Does anyone remember the Boyer property fiasco when some acreage at Highway 20 and Fakkama was sold to a government consortium for five times the assessed value, allegedly to remove the hazard of a plane crash along the Navy Base approach zone? What a joke that was -— a very bad one.

It also was before Dave Mattens became assessor and started working to improve the Washington State Constitution’s mandated system. Both assessing and appraising are demons of human “guess-timating,” and beside the limitations of human intellect, are subject to all the pressures of corrupting influences. Anyone who has sold property knows that one can get just about any property appraisal their money can buy. The last thing we want are the best assessments good lobbying can buy.

Over the years we’ve had questions and issues concerning our own property assessments resulting in visits to the Assessor’s Office. Since Mr. Mattens became assessor, even if we disagreed, we found the staff and deputy assessors to be cordial, polite, willing to listen, consider our issues, make justified corrections, and apparently be as fair and honest as humans can be. It sure beats whatever guess-and-by-golly system they had before. What more could we want?

Well, there is something more we could want. Getting out of the business of continually reassessing property has some positive features among which would be a huge savings of public expenditures (at a time when they are struggling with the budget) for a system that at best is even theoretically faulty. Some argue that it sounds too much like California’s famous — or infamous — “Proposition 13.” But if we are stuck with this archaic, counterproductive system of taxation that penalizes owners for maintaining, cleaning, and fixing up their property to the benefit of everyone; at least it is (almost) comforting to know that Assessor Dave Mattens and crew here in Island County are trying hard to upgrade the system in order to make it as error free, honest, and impartial as computerization can make it. It sure could be worse — and was.

Did you know that Assessor Dave Mattens actually argued before the state Ways and Means Committee against the penalizing aspects of property reassessing? He did. We were there and to our amazement heard it.

Al Williams

Oak Harbor

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