609 hearings later, Bannock County is left with 2,188 unheard property assessment appeals on morning of deadline
Rachel Cox-Rosen, KPVI
Published at | Updated at
POCATELLO (KPVI) — Time is up for Bannock County.
The Idaho State Tax Commission gave the county until Friday to finish property assessment appeal hearings, but they still have a tremednous amount to go through.
The appeal hearings are held by Bannock County’s Board of Equalization, which is made up of the three Bannock County Commissioners: Ernie Moser, Terrel Tovey and Chairperson Steve Brown. In these hearings, the appealing party has five minutes to prove that their assessment is wrong, and the Assessor’s Office has five minutes to defend their assessment. Then, the BOE either sides with the Assessor’s Office or the appealing party.
“The BOE is not responsible for the assessment,” says Commissioner Tovey. “The Bannock County Commissioners are not over the other elected officials, that’s against the law. We don’t get to go in and tell them what to do. So when the BOE begins, that is our check on the assessments that have been done.”
Bannock County officials estimate they only had around 15 appeals last year. This year’s market jump and dramatic jump in assessment values resulted in 3,090 appeal forms being turned into the county’s Board of Equalization, according to statistics pulled from Bannock County. Of those appeals, 231 were withdrawn and 62 were resolved with an appraiser. The board has held 609 hearings, 202 resulted in the assessment being upheld. There are still 2,188 appeals unheard.
In previous years, appraisers are able to meet with more people to resolve appeals before they reach the BOE. This year, because of what the Assessor’s Office cites as time and staff constraints, appraisers were not able to meet with many people.
It’s unclear if everyone who filed an appeal has been contacted by the county, but Tovey says everyone will eventually be contacted.
The BOE is now turning to bulk appeals to get through more at once.
They already grouped four market areas: Johnny Creek, Arimo, Downey and Inkom, totaling 2,011 parcels, some of which were not even appealed.
There are 14 market areas in Bannock County, and Tovey says many of those will not be able to be grouped because of a lack of “massive trends”.
He also explained that the commission aimed to hear as many individuals as possible. The BOE dealt with the majority of agricultural and commercial appeals on an individual basis because of what Tovey describes as the “uniqueness” of those parcels.
The BOE plans to group more market areas Friday, in order to meet the deadline. They also have the option to send unfinished appeals to the State Tax Commission.
In some cases, a lack of representation from the Assessor’s Office has made the commissioners’ jobs tougher. As KPVI has reported, Bannock County Assessor Sheri Davies was not present for at least one day of assessment hearings, and Bannock County officials say that was not the only day there was no representation from the Assessor’s Office.
“There have been times where the Assessor’s Office has been dealing with other issues,” says Tovey.
“And again, that hearing, the burden is placed on the appellant. So it does make it difficult to decide, but it also does give the appellant…if there’s nothing to refute…it does make it easier on them.”
Tovey acknowledged it’s been a tense situation. He says the public has been “cordial” for the most part, but he’s been taken aback by some.
“I’ve actually been kind of surprised by the lack of civility from people in our community,” Tovey says. “That’s not Pocatello and that’s not Bannock County. And some of the comments that have come through that have led to some of tension… there have been issues of physical violence towards people”
He also says social media comments have “gotten out of hand” and that they “don’t represent our community well.”
Tovey says hearings themselves have also been mostly calm, but that the Court Marshall has been forced to remove one or two people from the hearings.
After Friday, the Bannock County Board of Equalization will officially close. However, anyone unhappy with the result of their appeals can reach out to the State Tax Commission.
Tovey also says the State Tax Commission allows county BOE’s to have hearings on a monthly bases, an option he and other commissioners plan to consider.
“If you have a change in your property status, or you have a sale or a purchase that is underneath the marketed value, and you have evidence that supports your case, you can file and come in on a BOE hearing,” says Tovey.
Tovey hopes this will help the county get ahead of the issue in the future.
This article was originally published by KPVI. It is used here with permission.