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

Vote for knowledge and experience


October 18, 2018

To The Eagle:

The assessor’s office has been around this bend before. The assessor elected to office for the 2006-2010 years tried the ‘on the job training’; working overtime and meeting with tax payers. The campaign promise to take courses after the election proved difficult however, because there was not the time to attend classes to learn the job sufficiently. The deputy appraiser, at the time, realized the situation and ran with it, unencumbered, raising property values with no apparent rhyme or reason.

The county Board of Equalization (BOE) noticed an increase in petitions filed to appeal property assessments. Historically, applications for appeals were in the range of 4 to 20 per year, however, in 2010 BOE members were stunned to receive over 160 petitions from Puget Island alone. The board studied the petitions and realized that properties located next to each other were valued at drastically different levels. Recognizing the inequities extended well beyond just those who had filed appeals, the board decided to exercise their authority to perform an island-wide equalization of the land portion of the property assessments.

The Department of Revenue was not at all pleased with that decision and let it be known, as no Washington State County BOE had ever done an equalization, however the board continued and ventured into unknown territory with the county commissioners blessings.

An entire year was spent checking the assessor’s records on every one of the almost 800 parcels of land on the Island. They verified parcel size, description, if Columbia River or Slough frontage was involved, if the parcel was both inside and outside the dike or land only. They checked if utilities were installed, if the parcel was a buildable piece or recreational only. They made a spread sheet of each Island sale recorded between 2006 and 2010 and compared those numbers to the 2010 assessments. Public meetings were held with the property owners to inform them of the progress and answer any questions.

The board decisions and orders were mailed August 8, 2011 to each land owner on the Island. As a result, 74 percent of the assessments were lowered, 24 percent were raised, 2 percent remained the same and, the total of the assessments on island properties was reduced by more than $8,700,000. While that may have brought the inequities of the 2010 assessments to an end, it did not stop the fact that assessments and resultant tax bills for the three prior years represented an unfairly inflated cost to many island landowners. (The county was still inspecting and revaluing properties every four years.)

This letter certainly does not imply the current deputy appraiser would take advantage of the situation; it is merely a reminder of what can happen when an assessor believes ‘on the job training’ will get him by. If Mr. McClain truly wants to be assessor, take the courses prior to taking office- wait another four years.

To the voters-Be careful what you ask for!

Colleen Haley

Wahkiakum County BOE Clerk


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019