Come up with a plan, a program to provide relief to the people who have been harmed. Or, failing that, grow a conscience. Then resign your leadership position. Today.
PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 2023
The date was circled in red on the calendar. The valise was brimming with real-estate comps and downloads of the tax assessments for neighboring properties. I’d rehearsed, at least a dozen times, my best closing arguments, a la Otter at the charter-revocation board hearing for the Delta house.
Yep, it was finally time to meet the appeals officer to challenge the 48 percent property-tax increase Jackson County was seeking on my Baja Brookside home of the past 23 years. Three years ago, county officials gave us the song and dance about huge appraisal increases at that time. They were needed, don’t you know, to correct decades-old structural flaws in the assessment processes. It was a matter of fairness, we were told. So I ate the 15 percent increase that year and chalked it up to doing my part. Taking one for the team.
Turns out, the “correction” of 2020 was just an opening act—and a lame one. Worse than Prince opening for the Rolling Stones.
But! It also turns out, I had in hand a brand-new 2023 appraisal conducted in the spring by a real-live, bona fide licensed property-valuation pro who actually knew what he was doing. And unlike the county people, he actually parked his car and got out of it to make a long, careful examination. According to his math, the county had made a simple miscalculation—it had overshot the true valuation by a mere $80,000. That’s not a whole lot less than I paid for that house in 2000.
So, yeah, I figured, I have these guys dead to rights on this appeal. I’m going to go through them like Perry Mason pantsing the real killer, the one whose story is unraveling right there on the stand as buckets of sweat pour over his lying forehead.
I get to the appeals offices on Quality Hill half an hour early, sign in, take my seat, and begin reviewing the document-prep presentation order. Fifteen minutes past my assigned hearing time, I hear my name called out. I make a beeline for the table.
The polite young lady on the other side opens the discussion with: “You had an appraisal done this year?”
“Yes, and …”
“And is this the figure on it?”
“Yes, which is why …”
“Then that’s your new figure. Sign here.”
“You mean … that’s it?”
“But I have all these documents. I did so much homework.”
“No need for them now. We’re all finished.”
The looks on the faces of others who bore witness to this conversation induced a level of guilt that, in a just world, wouldn’t be mine to bear. It wasn’t my fault that I had come prepared.
“You’re done?” one groused as I scooted out.
“Yeah … that appraisal I had was the best $500 I ever spent.”
For a moment, I considered taking the energy I’d harnessed for my presentation, finding someone living on the streets near the convention center, and subjecting them to my pitch. Through a sense of self-preservation and Christian compassion for my fellow man, mercy prevailed.
On the way out of Downtown, though, a thought came to me: “What about those other people back there? The ones who got the same drive-by appraisals and ridiculous assessments untethered to housing-market realities? Why am I the only one feeling good about this process leaving that office today?”
Those are questions that should be addressed on a higher plane. As in the Jackson County legislative chambers. What’s going on out there isn’t just a public-policy travesty, it’s almost criminal. In all likelihood, inflated appraisals are going to force some people out of their homes.
It might not be a violation of state statutes, but it’s deeply … immoral.
Way past time for people in charge to fix this. If you folks in the legislature can’t address the phenomenon of phantom property valuations, the least you can do is to very publicly commit to maintaining overall property-tax receipts at their 2023 levels by lowering the tax levies a corresponding amount.
Yeah, I get it: There’s no time to review everyone’s case. The problem is too big; it defies remedy. Tens of thousands of appeals have been filed, and we’ll be into another tax year before they can all be heard. So come up with a plan, a program to provide relief to the people who have been harmed here. I don’t care how: Lowered long-term assessments to achieve balance, direct cash payments—something.
Or, failing that, grow a conscience. Then resign your leadership position. Today.