April 25, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 16

420 valuation appeals slow BOE process

The Haines Borough is extending its Board of Equalization process in order to accommodate a flood of property assessment appeals. About 420 appeals were filed before the April 15 deadline.

Contract assessor James Canary said due to the volume of appeals, the borough will not have inspected many properties before Monday’s scheduled Board of Equalization (BOE) hearing. Canary is recommending another hearing be held between May 20 and May 24 for the next batch of appeals that he can process.

More than 100 appointments to inspect appealed properties have been scheduled to date.

   Land owners who are appealing and have not been contacted by Canary or by assistant assessor Dean Olsen to schedule a site visit or meeting should not show up to the Monday BOE hearing, Canary said. They will get an opportunity to be heard in front of the BOE in May.

 The borough initially logged 440 appeals, but about 20 of those were later found to be duplicates, Canary said. So far all 30 appellants whose properties have been re-inspected are satisfied with the reassessment and do not want to go to the BOE, Canary said.

 “There are still many more appeals to work through, so that’s why there will be another BOE meeting scheduled later,” Mayor Stephanie Scott said during Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

  One of the settled reassessments actually involved a property owner asking for the assessment to be raised, Scott said.

 Nearly 200 recalculated assessment notices were recently sent out to the Chilkat Lake area after Canary realized he made a mistake in his calculations. “It was an error on my part,” Canary said.

 Canary accidentally added values for site development and views twice-over during his calculations, he said. Before sending out the revised appeals, Canary also conducted additional research by speaking to residents and real estate agents.

 “I think (the revised notices) will take care of all of the appeals (at Chilkat Lake). There might be a couple of people that will still appeal,” he said.

  There were also smaller, more technical errors in the borough’s database system that skewed some property assessments, Canary said. For example, one property in town was recorded in the system as being 2.99 acres, but it is actually .299 acres. Such incorrect data screwed up assessments of several properties, Canary said.

Canary and Olsen will be conducting site visits and notifying property owners of reassessments for the remainder of the week, and Canary also will be working through the weekend. Land owners whose appeals are reviewed by Canary before Monday and are still dissatisfied should attend the Monday BOE meeting.

“After the property has been reviewed and made sure all the data is correct on the property, the appellant is contacted and given the assessor’s review action – whether (the assessment) stays the same or changes. And they have the opportunity to agree or disagree,” said assistant assessor Olsen.

 Although no property owners who have met with Canary have said they’ll attend the BOE, some could crop up between now and Monday, which is why the borough can’t simply cancel the meeting, Mayor Scott said.

Olsen said he has never seen anything like this during his tenure at the borough – last year, the borough logged 16 appeals and five went to the BOE – but Canary, who has worked as an assessor in Juneau and Petersburg, said 400 appeals is standard procedure.

“This number is an average number in Juneau, but we also had a staff of five appraisers,” Canary said.

Volume of appeals is usually this high during “catch-up” situations, where property assessments have lagged behind market values for years, Canary said.

The assembly will meet as a committee of the whole for a budget meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday and move into the BOE meeting at 6 p.m., if necessary.