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About one-quarter of Spokane County property assessments are wrong

From Staff Reports

Have Seattle home values finally breached the Cascades and lifted Spokane real estate?

No. That sticker shock from the Spokane County Assessor’s Office that arrived in the mail this week is in error.

About 1 in 4 assessments – or 34,671 parcels – sent Monday to residents listed an incorrect property value, said Spokane County Deputy Assessor Byron Hodgson. A computer error by the vendor that handles the mailings is to blame.

The vendor, Master’s Touch, will cover the $45,000 cost of postage for the corrected notices, Hodgson said. Those mailings could arrive in Spokane County mailboxes as early as next week, he said.

Spokane County Assessor Vicki Horton said the county has used Master’s Touch, which annually sends four notices to homeowners, for years without any problems. The county paid the company $25,014 to produce a similar mailing last year, Hodgson said.

Hodgson said Thursday afternoon the Assessor’s Office had received many phone calls from concerned residents, most of whom took the misprinting in stride.

“The citizens are very understanding,” Hodgson said. “That helps.”

Accurate assessment information can be viewed on the assessor’s website. Errors occurred during the printing process, Horton said, and some residents received values that were too high, while others received values well below the correct assessments.

“We have teams of people that check them, then send them back,” Horton said of the assessments. “Nothing is printed without their approval.”

Property owners will get a new assessment printed on colored card stock rather than the white paper normally used. Hodgson said Master’s Touch has identified the error and is working with the county to get corrected notices in Spokane County mailboxes as quickly as possible.

As a result of the error, homeowners will have a longer window of time to appeal their assessed value with the office.

Horton reported that Spokane County housing is rebounding from the crash.

The total taxable value of the county this year will surpass the 2009 assessed value high of $38.7 billion. But that doesn’t mean home values have completely made up the losses resulting from the housing bubble burst. Of the 124,981 single-family homes in the county, 95,607 continue to be assessed below their 2009 value.

The second payment of Spokane County property taxes is not due until the end of October. This week’s error will have no effect on that process, Horton said.

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