Appeals deadline weighed

PROPERTY REVALUATIONS: Assessor praises longer period, while board unsure of merits

Staff writerDecember 6, 2011 

A longer deadline for Thurston County property owners to appeal property revaluations has come and gone with fewer petitions going to the Board of Equalization than last year, according to board officials.

Assessor Steven Drew calls the program a success, while board members are saying the new system has slowed the hearing process, which is still judging cases from 2010.

The new system, which provides a 60-day appeal window, was advocated by the Assessor’s Office as extra time to resolve issues, and in turn, reduce appeals. The longer timeline is a “commendable approach,” but the board was caught by surprise and was unprepared, said board chair Liz Lyman.

“We weren’t anticipating this change,” Lyman said. “As you extend the filing period, it doesn’t necessarily reduce the number of inquiries to our staff.”

The number of appeals is down from last year, but not much, according to board figures.

As of Nov. 30, the board had received 1,128 petitions, a decrease of 68 appeals through the same time last year, according to the board.

Assessor Steve Drew said he couldn’t comment on those numbers because he hadn’t discussed the figures with the board. He did say, however, that the new timeline has been a “great success,” leading to fewer appeals and hundreds of issues being resolved before heading to appeal.

“We’re in much, much better shape this year than we were in last year,” he said, adding that commercial appeals are down 25 percent and that his office was able to resolve 47 residential appeals.

He said appeal data can also be tricky because of how they are counted. The county received appeals from seven subdivisions representing more than 450 appeals, though only seven responses are necessary.

Appeals that make it through to the board will add to cases that go back to 2010; the board is meeting three times a week and hopes to get through the nearly 300 appeals from 2010 by spring, according to Ruth Elder, clerk of the board.

According to board members, the new deadline meant more calls and questions from property owners, using up staff time and forcing the cancellation of many November meetings.

Property values continued to take a hit in Thurston County this year, with median residential values dropping 7.7 percent as of January, the third year in a row with declines. Property revaluations showed a drop of $1.38 billion, to $24.74 billion.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476

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