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

More unhappy citizens deal with assessments

 


To The Eagle:

I found Lori Hamp’s letter [March 22, 2018 edition] about her experiences with the property tax appeals system in this county to be right on. But Mr. Coons reply seemed evasive and defensive, as if he were running for something. And then Mr. McClain [March 29, 2018 edition] reminds us that indeed there is an election coming for Mr. Coon’s position.

Ms. Hamp is absolutely correct that it is a frustrating, time-consuming, deliberately arcane form of harassment and intimidation that most people who have gone through it once would not care to endure again. After writing four appeals in five years, I have to say that Mr. Coons and his appraisers, Mr. Michael Dahle and Mr. Andrew Jenkins, have designed it to be this way. I understand why those who give up appealing just pay: they are intimidated by the amount of work required. Also, I expect there are some who fear retribution and don’t dare to file at all.

My husband and I have appealed our property’s assessment three times in as many years, as we build our own house, which isn’t finished, outside of Cathlamet. Even before that, we were amazed to see our unfinished garage assessed 230 percent more as a future residence with upgraded appliances and w/w carpet. That made us wary, but we were told by Mr. Coons it was just “human error,” which was corrected when we showed him our garage. It was not so easily reversed in other years when we had to file an appeal because Mr. Coons and company were convinced they were right. We found Mr. Coons had added our garage twice in computing our valuation. In fact, Mr. Coons tried to bully us to accept his new value or he would argue for an even higher one. In a 13-page decision, the BOE concluded that some of the assessor’s practices in our case “(do) not represent government at its best.” The next year, he ignored the BOE’s ruling and raised our land valuation by 111 percent, only to back down just before the BOE meeting. We would have been stuck with his initial higher value if we hadn’t gone to the trouble of filing an appeal. As a result, we learned to ask for our appraisal file whenever we appealed. However, the next time, Mr. Dahle said it was lost, and it remained so for four months until, at the end of our BOE meeting, Mr. Coons finally explained, “By the way, we found your file. It was in last year’s appeals.”

I want to second Ms. Hamp’s appeal for a more transparent, simple-to-navigate public website for the assessor’s sales data and his methodology, and to heavily underline the conviction that taxpayers do have a right to examine the work of Mr. Bill Coons and his two appraisers, Mr.Dahle and Mr. Jenkins. We need to question their figures without getting the run-around. We don’t deserve to be treated with disdain at the BOE, accused of “negotiating” our valuation when we have compiled pages of evidence to prove it.

Since the BOE is a quasi-judicial system, all parties should see beforehand the specific evidence for the assessor’s valuation and the appellant’s new figure. That means, Mr. Coons, do not send us a sheaf of all the sales in the county, just those that prove your point, and do not seek to play “gotcha” by holding back something important to your case. We tax payers deserve to have more access to information and less intimidation from our public servants in the Assessor’s office.

Karen Cressa

Cathlamet

 

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