Gallagher: Property assessment system in dire need of reform

Gallagher: Property assessment system in dire need of reform

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Editor:

I am appealing my county residential property tax assessment as a vehicle to protest the Department of Revenue’s assessment administration and to solicit the Board of Equalization’s support in seeking its reform. I believe many people have concerns over their residential assessment.

Anyone who has been through a boom-and-bust cycle in a sparsely populated Western state understands that jobs, population and residential property values are positively correlated … they move together in the same direction. Everyone understands this… except the Department of Revenue. Revenue’s property assessment software and management reverses these relationships, making my property value increase at double digit rates for 2018 and 2019 even though jobs and population have been in decline since 2015. Something is very, very wrong with Revenue’s assessment software and its management.

Revenue’s assessment system is untethered from reality, erratic and unpredictable. The remedy I seek is a letter from the BOE to the governor asking for the establishment of a task force to study and propose reform of the residential property tax assessment process.

For many families, one of the largest outlays is the home property tax. For this reason alone, the property tax assessment process needs transparency and needs to make sense. Revenue’s assessment system, implemented locally by the county assessor, is neither of these. Revenue’s rules provide few definitions, little information about procedures and are internally inconsistent. In addition, neither Revenue nor the assessor provide public information on Natrona County’s residential property inventory or the intra-county boundaries used in assessment administration. Without definitions and transparency, the system operates on an ad hoc, arbitrary and unequal basis. Based on my nearly four decades of experience working in state government, the absence of transparency can be taken as one measure of Revenue’s lack of competence.

Without reform, public understanding of the assessment system and informed taxpayer participation in its execution is denied.

TOM GALLAGHER, Casper 

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