May 2, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 17

BOE upholds 24 assessments

Members of the Haines Borough Assembly acting as the Board of Equalization (BOE) Monday upheld 24 property assessments recommended by contract assessor Jim Canary.

Canary said he and assistant assessor Dean Olsen have worked their way through about 100 appeals so far. The 24 cases heard at Monday’s hearing were largely the result of appellants not responding after Canary contacted them to inform them of his decision to either alter their assessments or keep them the same, he said.

“We tried our best to make contact with each and every appellant. The majority of the people who went to the board never got back to us,” Canary said.

Canary estimated he has recommended “no change” on about 60 percent of appeals processed so far, and that those he has recommended lowering have been mainly because of reassessments of buildings, not lands.

Despite encountering cases during the appeal process in which land or building valuations should be raised, Canary said he would not be recommending an increase in value unless requested by the owner because “it’s our fault for not picking it up” in the first place.

For example, during one site visit, Canary discovered a small cabin had been built on the property but not recorded in the borough’s database.

“Back in the olden days – in the mid-2000s – we used to recommend an increase. We don’t do that anymore, because it’s considered by the public as a threat. So if we can’t find a reason to lower it, we will recommend no change,” Canary said.

The information will still be recorded and used to make future assessments more accurate, Canary said.

Richard Buck was the only appellant to appear in person at Monday’s meeting. Glenda Gilbert, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker, attended to represent James and Linda Axsom.

Buck and the Axsoms’ cases were the only two assessments taken up by the BOE that did not receive a unanimous vote to uphold.

Buck, who appealed the assessments for two of his properties on Lutak Road, said both assessments should be lowered because of inaccessibility to large portions of them. Buck also claimed his assessments were not in line with national trends, and were valued the same as beachfront properties, when his properties are not on the beach.

Canary recommended no change on Buck’s 3.03 acre property valued at $275,100. On Buck’s second property, Canary recommended a $4,700 reduction to the building assessment. Assembly members Dave Berry and Norm Smith voted against upholding Canary’s recommendations on both of Buck’s properties, but assembly member Joanne Waterman said she felt Buck did not prove his case.

“It’s the appellant’s responsibility to prove a difference. I don’t feel that that was met,” Waterman said. Both motions to uphold passed, 4-2.

Gilbert, who spoke on behalf of the Axsoms, requested the assessments of the Axsoms’ properties on FAA Road be decreased. Canary decreased one property by $56,800 (leaving it $9,000 above the owner’s estimate). All assembly members except Steve Vick voted to uphold Canary’s assessment.

On the Axsoms’ second undeveloped property, Canary recommended the land be valued at $18,000, even though the owner estimated its value at $25,000. Canary based the change on recent sales data provided by Gilbert.

Assembly members Debra Schnabel and Jerry Lapp voted against the change. Schnabel said she didn’t feel comfortable lowering the assessment beyond what the owner estimated it was worth on the appeal form.

The BOE will convene again at 6 p.m. on May 21 to hear the remaining appeals. Canary and Olsen still have roughly 300 appeals to work through, although Canary said he expects dozens of those will become non-issues due to revised notices recently sent out to the Chilkat Lake area.