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

Assessor should hold workshop


To The Eagle:

With the election of county officials only a month away, there isn’t much time left for the incumbent assessor to make good on his suggestion to hold a workshop (March 29, 2018, Letters to the Editor) to explain his property evaluation procedures. Property owners had complained in several issues of “The Eagle” about the difficulty in accessing the necessary information to file property value appeals. Bill Coons answered those concerns by volunteering to hold a workshop, but nothing has transpired since last March.

In the meantime, I have spent some time looking into the practices of the assessor’s department for the last three years to see if Mr. Coons’ property valuations really did reflect the year’s county market values. I began with the certified tax rolls of the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, annual lists of approximately 5500 properties and their valuations which are then submitted by the assessor to the county auditor and the Board of Equalization. I then reviewed all property sales from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016, since the state requires property values to be based on “true market value”, what a willing buyer and seller would agree to as a sales price. Last, I looked over all the appeals and stipulations of value for the 2017 tax year. Through an analysis of this data, I hoped to find out if the property values assigned by Mr. Coons for the year 2017, based on 2016’s sales, truly reflected the actual real estate market in Wahkiakum County, especially how Mr. Coons came up with the mass adjustment factors for each area of the county.

Realtors I contacted confirmed what I had assumed was the situation in 2016: the housing market was definitely up that year and so were prices. However, my research would have forced me to conclude that there must have been a recession in this county then, because Mr. Coons had lowered a great many property values for 2017. We all know there was no recession, the realtors were correct, and this doesn’t add up. Would Mr. Coons care to explain to us property owners how he arrives at his valuations? A workshop should be held, and it should be conducted in language that is not “esoteric” - that is, for the select few - but simple to follow. Above all, Mr. Coons should demonstrate how he fairly and equally applied his methods to all properties in the county.

I encourage Mr. Coons to translate a mere gesture into an actual workshop to be held before the election, and even to invite Brian McClain, the other candidate for assessor, to attend. It would be interesting to also include the auditor, the treasurer and the commissioners so we all can understand how our funding source operates. Understanding how our government works should give us more faith in its fairness. That requires being transparent and forthright in providing factual information instead of a preoccupation with “esoteric knowledge.”

Jerry Cressa



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