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

Assessor responds to previous letter


March 29, 2018

To The Eagle:

I am writing in response to Ms. Hamp’s letter [March 22, 2018 edition] expressing her frustration with obtaining information for her appeal of her 2017 property value for 2018 taxes to the Wahkiakum County Board of Equalization (BOE).

First, a couple clarifications must be made. The assessor’s office values property in Wahkiakum county for use in the levy of ad valorem (Latin for "according to value") property taxes. When Ms. Hamp refers to her property taxes, I believe that she means her property valuation, which increased 10 percent in 2016 and 16.4 percent in 2017. Also, any taxpayer may call or drop by the assessor’s office and we will be happy to provide information on property sales tailored to their needs.

There are some actions that I can take to improve the information available on the county website. I completely agree that we should strive 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 county spent over $200,000 in 2010 (before I took office) on the software used by the assessor and treasurer. Unfortunately, the way it was implemented left many details of properties, like information “about the MH [mobile/manufactured homes--ed.] itself, such as its year, make, model, square footage, or condition,” outside the software and thus unavailable on the website. I can investigate ways to make the database of sales that we use in our valuation available and searchable on our website. I also think that holding a workshop (with the BOE) for interested taxpayers on how to successfully appeal your property valuation would be helpful. I will report back on our findings about making these things happen.

I owe Ms. Hamp an apology. I marked her appeal file to send “MH on land” sales information but decided that it would be more fair to send information on “All” sales. My bad. I should have sent both and I should have sent a key to the abbreviations. I was surprised to learn that the information provided by Ms. Haley contained more sales. Upon investigation, I found that the spreadsheet provided was something that I had never seen and contained MH only sales, foreclosure sales, and non-market sales.

I can’t help with proving the assertion “(MH) should only depreciate in value, and should never appreciate unless improvements have been made to them.” When I pulled the four “MH on land” sales from west county in 2015 and 2016 I found that when I adjusted them to match Ms. Hamp’s MH the indicated value was slightly more than her assessed value. I then looked at MH sales in Naselle in Pacific county. I found six sales in 2015 NS 2016, and they indicated an even higher value. And to top it off, the assessed values of the MH had increased! Even Pacific county is experiencing the same increasing market for manufactured homes. In fact, a “MH on land” in the Elochoman sold late last year for $245,000!

Your readers may wonder why I don’t just be “nice” and lower Ms. Hamp’s assessed value when she appeals. It would have avoided an 856-word letter to the editor. What’s to lose? The reason that I don’t just lower values when taxpayers appeal is my sense of duty to all the taxpayers who don’t appeal. What do I mean? Were I to lower values for reasons not supported by market sales or problems with the property, I would be unfairly and illegally shifting the tax burden from the appellant to everyone else. Who do I represent at BOE hearings? Not myself, but every other taxpayer in the county.

Bill Coons

Wahkiakum County Assessor


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