Assessor wants timeline cut for appealing property values

If you’re mad about the value placed on your property by the county assessor, don’t dawdle over filing an appeal.

Island County Assessor Dave Mattens wants to cut the time now given to property owners who want to challenge their property values.

He plans to present a proposal to the board of county commissioners at a work session today requesting a change to the county code to cut the 60-day deadline for filing an appeal to 30 days.

“Originally, the filing period was

30 days,” Mattens said. “When a backlog of appeals threatened to overwhelm the system, my predecessor changed it to

60 days several years ago.

“Things have gotten better since then and this change is designed to speed up the process, making it more efficient and allowing us to resolve problems faster,” he said.

In Island County, there have been 685 appeals filed in 2008. The county Board of Equalization has heard 371 challenges,

35 more are on the hearing schedule,

180 are unresolved and 99 have been rejected.

When Mattens was elected to the job in November 2006, there were more than 1,200 unresolved appeals.

Mattens explained that when property owners have a full 60 days to file an appeal to their “Change of Value Notice,” they tend to procrastinate, resulting in appeals trickling into his department over longer periods. That prevents appraisers who review the appeals from being out in the field, Mattens said.

Mattens pointed out that his target date for sending out the notices is now June 1. Last year it was June 25 and two years ago, Aug. 31.

“This change will help us stay caught up on the property tax schedule,” he said.

Another factor is the county’s recent decision to require cutting back on personnel in all departments by 10 percent. In the assessor’s office, that means two full-time employees. One is being lost through attrition while four others are being forced to accept reduced hours.

Mattens said the other county departments agree with the move to cut the appeals process in half and noted that most counties follow the 30-day filing period.

Langley residents Noel Goforth and Alan Whitman aren’t so sure the move is taking local government in the right direction.

Earlier this year, their new construction home was assessed 327 percent higher than previously. It took time and effort, but they filed within the 60-day deadline, then dropped the whole thing.

“An appraiser came out to reassess our property and his evaluation was lower overall so we withdrew our application,” Goforth said.

But Whitman isn’t certain he could have made his case within a 30-day deadline.

“I did a ton of research and put together a 30-page report complete with graphs and photos,” he recalled. “A shorter timeframe would have made it more difficult, and I’m retired.”

Last summer, Mary Quade of Clinton filed an appeal on property she and her husband own that they felt was wrongly assessed.

“It takes a long time to respond unless you have nothing else to do, so I believe it should stay at 60 days,” Quade said.

She said the forms are complicated, with the burden of proof falling on the property owner’s shoulders. Another concern is that people may not be home in the summer when the notifications are mailed, which further cuts into the response time.

In the end, the Quades’ appeal was denied.

“They did say I could reapply, but both of us work and we just don’t have time for it,” she said. “I think they’re counting on that.”

Taxpayers unhappy with the result of their appeal can file a challenge with the state, but they must do it within 30 days.

Most appeals filed with the state board are over property valuation appeals from decisions made by the county Board of Equalization. The state board’s duty is to determine if the assessed value of property represents fair market value.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at

221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbey

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