Kenai Peninsula Borough property owners reeling from assessments

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Kenai Peninsula Borough property owners are reeling from large increases in their property tax assessments.

Jodi and Erik Painter could not believe their eyes when they opened their assessment. The taxable value of their Cooper Landing property more than doubled when borough assessors visited last year.

''We went to the borough to make sure they had the right property,'' Jodi Painter said. ''But it was us. We were quite shocked.''

Borough assessors between May 1999 and February checked land from the Moose River to Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, Seward and Hope, and every parcel in an area running from central Ninilchik to Cottonfield Road near Anchor Point.

Roughly 500 people have appealed their assessments, said Jim Lawyer, borough assessor. Contested assessments go before the borough assembly, sitting as Board of Equalization, beginning May 3.

Cooper Landing residents are particularly upset.

Steve Ingram, who lives on the Kenai River just below the Cooper Landing bridge, said he made some improvements and expected the assessed value of his property to reflect them. However, he wasn't prepared for the increase in the assessed value of his land. One of his riverfront lots rose fivefold, from $33,600 last year to $171,300 this year.

''I appealed it,'' he said. ''I haven't heard anything back from it yet. I'm sure they're totally backlogged with appeals.''

For Lyman Nichols, the assessed value of his land by Kenai Lake rose from $99,900 to $394,500. Cheryle James said the value of her land by the lake rose from $57,000 to $136,900.

Roughly 118 Cooper Landing residents have appealed their property tax assessments, Lawyer said.

''Land values had changed. All we can do is put them up to 100 percent of fair market value,'' Lawyer said.

He said Cooper Landing residents probably saw big increases because it had been so long since the area was assessed. He didn't know when the properties were last assessed and blamed the problem on poor record-keeping by his predecessors.

Borough assessors gauged land values from recent sales. But Ingram said there only have been a half-dozen recent sales for raw land in Cooper Landing.

''They didn't even have a fair group of sales to do a fair-market appraisal on,'' he said.

Mayor Dale Bagley sees the situation differently.

''You could argue that they've been getting a break for however long it was (since the last assessment),'' he said.

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