2015’s SB 165 changed the role of county government in the appeals process of centrally assessed property. The bill limited counties’ ability to appeal a value unless a county is convinced the property is valued at 50 percent or less its actual value, but allows counties 30 days after a property owner has appealed a value to cross appeal. With an implementation date of January 1, 2016; it will take years before we have a clear understanding of the impact of SB 165—but we can still look at some very early results of SB 165.
Table 1 shows the number of taxpayer and county appeals and cross appeals over the past three years. For 2016 county appeals, I limited the value to appeals on individual centrally assessed property owners. (Say, for example, two counties independent of each other appealed the same value. Rather than count that as two appeals, I counted it as one.)
In 2014, counties appealed six property tax valuations; in 2015, counties appealed nine property tax valuations; and in 2016, that number jumped to 32. Of those 32, 30 were cross appeals filed after the property owner appealed a value and two were county initiated. Assuming that the intent of the 15 appeals that counties initiated during 2014 and 2015 were to cross appeal taxpayer appeals, counties participated in just 14 percent of taxpayer appeals during those years. In 2016, counties will participate in 75 percent of the taxpayer appeals.
It is also interesting to note that the taxpayer appeals dropped in 2015 and again in 2016. The argument was made during the debate over SB 165 that many taxpayer appeals were protective in nature in the event that the counties might appeal their value. Whether the reduction in taxpayer appeals reflects that argument or not will probably require several more years to determine.
What does seem clear is that the provision in SB 165 that allows county government 30 days following a taxpayer appeal is allowing counties a more precision tool to identify property value appeal cases to participate in. Prior to SB 165, counties would often make the decision as to which cases to appeal based on the perceived possibility as to which taxpayers would appeal their values. This shot-in-the-dark method of deciding which cases to participate in was the best way to participate in the discussion. Now counties can see the cards the taxpayers are playing before deciding whether to up the ante.
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