Arbitrary assessments for property taxes | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

By now, we all have received our property tax bill and wonder whether the assessor’s numbers are correct.

When buying anything, we compare, to make sure the price is right.

However, with property taxes, what do we compare them to?

Last year, just for the heck of it, I compared our property taxes to those of our neighbor’s and discovered that we were assessed $100,000 higher for the land section only. Same topography, except my neighbor had 30 feet more waterfront.

I then compared 15 “similar or comparable” (state law lingo) properties in our neighborhood and found roller coaster assessments from minus 39 percent to plus 65 percent for 2017. That was surprising since we all live on a dirt road with our land being subject to the Bainbridge Island Critical Area Ordinance. Meaning, nothing can be done to the land, not even a tree can be trimmed. Why such arbitrary assessments? What logic is the assessor using?

Armed with my neighborhood statistics I appealed our assessment to the Board of Equalization and our assessment was equalized to the assessed value of the land right next door from us.

I suggested to the assessor to compare properties in the neighborhood and Assessor Cook wrote me twice: “We cannot use your neighbor’s value as a comparison.” Why not? Real estate businesses do. What the assessor did use were three properties miles from our home, each one valued twice our property. How is the “comparable or similar”?

We don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes but do mind the arbitrariness of the system. The appraiser at the Board of Equalization meeting told us: “We just don’t to things this way”.

Well maybe it is time to act more like a business and less like a bureaucracy.

JAMES BEHREND

Crystal Springs

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