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Reader: There has to be better way to assess property

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008

Have you checked your property assessment notice against last year's? Chances are your "improvements" assessed value increased somewhere between 3.5 and 25 percent. Your "land value" probably didn't change at all (no doubt that will be the target of next year's increase).

It was explained to me during my "informal meeting" with a KPB appraiser that the new computer program (I wonder how much we all paid for that?) only "refigured" (translate, "ratcheted up") the building values for 2008.

Apparently, this program is a random number generator, much like those in electronic slot machines in Las Vegas, that magically increased our improvements assessed values at some random percentage with no discernible relationship to any identifiable variable, such as age or condition of building or type or quality of construction. All of this occurred, in most cases, without a live assessor even visiting your neighborhood.

If you find yourself in the 12- to 25-percent increase range, you may want to go online to www.borough.kenai.ak.us/assessingdept and check out how your neighbors fared through the Public Info/Parcel Lookup function. Then if you are suitably incensed, go in and request an "informal meeting" with an appraiser.

They are friendly, professional people who, though they apparently have no explanation for why their new computer program came up with such wide discrepancies in percent increases for seemingly comparable properties in the same neighborhood, will be happy to talk with you.

You have until Monday to file for a formal appeal before the KPB Board of Equalization for your excessive and unequal valuation. Or you might decide your effort would be better spent educating yourself about this nationwide property taxation crisis by visiting www.hjta.org/node/382 and reading the historical information on California's Prop. 13.

An Alaska statute change is required, but limiting assessment increases to no more than 2 percent per year, until a property is sold or has new construction, is the only solution to end these cycles of unpredictable, runaway property value assessment increases.

House Bill 23 was introduced in last year's Alaska legislative session and was the first attempt to change the statute to allow for an "acquisition type" property tax valuation system.

Can you live with a 25 percent assessment increase every few years? How about a couple consecutive years of 50 percent increases like occurred in some counties in southern Florida and Hawaii? If you are retired on a fixed income, will you have to sell your home or get a part-time job to pay taxes?

The "acquisition type" property tax valuation system removes the fear that your future taxes may be based on inflated values representing unrealized paper gains and based on activity in the real estate market and other economic factors over which you have no control. Instead, you get the certainty of knowing what your property taxes will be year to year so you can plan your life. It also allows for more stable communities and offers hopeful futures for retirees and our children.

Write or talk to your representatives.

Walter H. Ward

Soldotna



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