June 16, 1995 in Nation/World

Appeals Tax The System Property Owners Are Taking Issue With Assessments In Kootenai County

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The big, burly man lumbered through the door of the county commissioners’ office and landed a fist solidly on the receptionist’s counter.

“I want to appeal,” Dane Broadfoot bellowed, then chuckled good-naturedly when promptly handed the 1,029th property tax assessment appeal form to leave the commissioners’ office.

By late Thursday, 1,098 forms were distributed - the most appeals since anti-tax sentiments reached a fevered pitch in the late ‘70s. Lines to the assessor’s office - three-deep with livid homeowners - stretched out to the street.

There’s still eight more days before the deadline to file an appeal.

Not all those appeal forms will result in hearings, however. Traditionally, only half the complainants follow through the entire appeals process.

By Thursday, about 120 property owners had either scheduled a hearing or had already had one. Fitting in all 500-plus expected hearings before the state-set July 10 deadline could be a challenge, commissioners admit.

“We’re prepared to start early and go late and work Saturdays,” said commissioner Dick Compton. “We’re going to move heaven and earth to try to get them done.”

The commissioners are scheduling about seven or eight hearings a day.

Summarizing the hearings, Compton said, “The overall theme is ‘How the hell can it go up so much?”’

That was the question nagging at 73-year-old Broadfoot. He owns a 1945 government tract house that used to sit at Farrugut when it was a naval base. Now it sits in Rathdrum, on at least one rotting joist, he said.

“I’m going to have to move out or appeal or something,” Broadfoot said. His assessment went from $66,935 to $82,629, a 23.4 percent increase.

That’s a little more than the average increase of residential property in the Coeur d’Alene and Rathdrum areas. Post Falls property was expected to rise more.

Property values countywide have increased by about $950 million. Of that, about $140 million came from new growth, according to deputy assessor Mike McDowell. The rest was caused by higher assessment on existing homes and businesses.

The county is required by state law to assess property for at least 90 percent of market value. McDowell said the county has slipped behind that mark in recent years.

The attempt to catch up, the larger number of lots readjusted this year, and tax watchdog Ron Rankin have contributed to the high number of appeals, McDowell said.

In the courthouse lobby, Rankin invited taxpayers to sign petitions to get the latest version of the 1 Percent Initiative on the ballot.

The courthouse traffic was composed mostly of people paying their quarterly property taxes and questioning the accuracy of their assessments.

“I feel like you people are stealing from me,” one man angrily told a clerk in the assessor’s office.

In three days Rankin claims to have gathered 650 signatures for the initiative that would, if passed, limit property taxes to 1 percent of the property’s assessed value.

“I think we’re going to get it easy this year,” a gleeful Rankin predicted. “No one’s cussing at me except the commissioners.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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