The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

We are getting the shaft from assessor


March 22, 2018

To the Eagle:

Every year I feel like I am being railroaded by the Assessor’s office. Last year my property taxes on my then 7-year old manufactured home increased 10 percent from the previous year, this year they increased by yet another 19 percent above last year’s appraisal! Last year, I appealed my appraisal, arguing that manufactured homes (MH) should only depreciate in value, and should never appreciate unless improvements have been made to them.

The appeals process appears quite easy at face value. Simply submit the completed petition forms to the BOE (board of equalization), and show cogent evidence the value established by the assessor is incorrect. There is no mention of where this information must come from, simply produce evidence of property sales in the area that prove the point you are trying to make. So I spent several days comparing property sales and produced multiple sale comparisons of ‘MH on land’ sales that showed only depreciation. My comps ranged from property sales in both Wahkiakum and Pacific County, roughly all from a 30 mile radius of my home. However, the BOE, that I thought was here to help protect us from indiscriminant tax raises by the assessor, chose to side with the assessor, and especially refused to review the comps I had from Pacific County, in which I had several. I was told that the different county assessors obviously value mobile/manufactured homes on a different basis…”. Yes! This was my point! That doesn’t make our assessor right. The Pacific county comps I used were roughly 15 miles from my home and were homes that were more comparable to my situation than the Cathlamet and Puget Island comps the BOE and assessor’s office would have me use, which were 30 miles away and very different geographically than my area, many having river frontage or views, etc. And as I stated before, I had not been instructed to only produce comps from Wahkiakum County.

Furthermore, the Pacific County assessor’s website is a dream to navigate compared to the convoluted coded spreadsheet information contained in the Wahkiakum County property sales records pages. Every year I struggle to decipher the information contained on our county’s website! I try to create a search of ‘MH sales on land’ in order to find comps for my hearing and am completely unable to do so. Even when I am able to find one, I don’t really know how to interpret the information I see. In many cases there is no information anywhere on the page about the MH itself, such as its year, make, model, square footage, or condition.

So this year, I waited in impatient anticipation for the assessor to simply send me the required documents showing me how he determined my appraisal, and what do I finally receive a mere days before my hearing? Nine spreadsheet pages of almost every property sale in the county from 2012 to 2016, each page containing nearly 50 sales, so roughly 400-500 sales to sift through, each with 21 columns of spreadsheet codes such as USE, FF, SFGLA, AUD #, DOR, STG, FTC, and SType. Since my petition is only regarding a MH on land, I assumed he would only send me the criteria relating to MH sales on land. But no, nothing to even indicate which sales are MH on land or MH at all! And no real key to tell me what any of the abbreviations and titles mean.

Thankfully, Colleen Haley, clerk for the BOE, sent me an additional spreadsheet that showed me only those sales that were of MH on land, a total of 48 sales, nine of which were not even included on the spreadsheet received from the assessor’s office! Also, all of the sales on her sheet contained some data on the MHs themselves, such as square footage. When asked how she acquired this information she said from the assessor’s office, not from the website. She was told by said office that this information was not available on the website! So, we the public, when filing an appeal, are expected to produce comps, only from within our county, with data that is incomplete, undecipherable, and pretty much unobtainable, while the assessor keeps the pertinent information to himself, and is able to come to the hearing fully loaded. This all sounds very one sided to me, possibly even illegal? It is unfair to say the least. I feel the assessor’s office should first and foremost be forced to make the county’s website more user friendly, and all sales’ information be made available to the public in a clear, easy to read format.

The frustration and stress I feel every year my assessment comes out is palpable. My eight year old, aging, manufactured home is being assessed higher every year. I know the same is happening to others as well, but the lack of easily obtainable information and the frustration of having to go to battle every year is causing many people to just give up the fight, which I think is the assessor’s goal. Under the current system, the county is getting the gold mine; we are getting the shaft.

Lori L. Hamp



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