This editorial was published by the Idaho State Journal of Pocatello
It’s hard to look at the recent reassessment of all properties in Bannock County and feel confident about our county’s leadership.
Many Bannock County residents are still in a panic after they received notices showing their new assessments.
If the massive assessment increases didn’t provide a big enough shock, the fact the notices told everyone that the deadline for appeals was 5 p.m. on the same day they were received certainly gave all of us something close to a heart attack.
Sheri Davies, the county’s newly elected assessor, tried to defend her office’s countywide reassessment but by the end of the week was saying that the same new computer software that apparently caused the new assessment notices to go out 18 days late had likely provided many people with incorrect assessments.
So Davies was telling everyone whose assessment increased by more than 50 percent thanks to the work of her office to definitely file an appeal.
From the many phone calls and letters to the editor received at the Idaho State Journal, there are a lot of county residents whose assessments increased by that much.
Davies was quick to say that in response to the massively increased assessments that the county’s property tax rates would likely be decreased, meaning property taxes would stay the same or only slightly increase.
But after listening to the county commissioners at their recent press conference, we have zero confidence that property taxes in Bannock County won’t significantly increase. Rather than provide damage control, the commissioners defended Davies and ironically urged voters to hold their elected officials accountable.
After this mess, we can say on behalf of the entire county that we are looking forward to doing just that.
We’re sorry to put the commissioners on the spot, but after the way Davies has handled this reassessment we have trouble trusting anyone in our county government.
Davies and the commissioners have said the countywide reassessment was needed because property assessments in the county had for years not been in compliance with the state mandate that they reflect 100 percent of true market values.
Davies says that if not for the reassessment, the state would have come in and conducted its own reassessment in a very heavy handed way with no chance for county residents to appeal.
But if properties in the county have really been assessed lower than market value for years, why hasn’t the state already intervened? We have yet to receive any confirmation from the Idaho Tax Commission that it was on the verge of interceding and reassessing the county.
Furthermore, before our discussion with Davies about her countywide reassessment, no Bannock County official had said the county was in the State Tax Commission’s crosshairs because of this apparent assessment issue.
As far as heavy handedness goes, Davies has no room to talk after mailing the new assessment notices with an appeals deadline on the same day the letters arrived.
The comments from her and the county commissioners this past week all sound like double-speak by government officials who are at best in over their heads.
One other big complaint from just about everyone regarding Davies’ countywide reassessment is that the new assessments seem to be much more than what any of us could reasonably sell our homes for. If the goal was to align assessments with true market values, we have serious doubts about this countywide reassessment, especially now that Davies is telling many county property owners to appeal the work of her own office.
Perhaps the icing on the cake of this glowing example of all that’s wrong with our government is that if Bannock County property owners want to appeal their new assessments, it’s on them to gather comparable property sale data and prove to the local Board of Equalization (whose membership coincidentally consists of the county’s three commissioners) that an assessment reduction is in order.
That property sale data, however, isn’t something that’s available to the public.
One would think that if the Assessor’s Office is telling you that your assessment should be increased to the tune of 50 percent or more that Davies — not you — would have to prove the case.
But that’s not how our government works.
Some advice for our county officials is that the next time someone wants to do a countywide reassessment: Start holding community meetings explaining the process months ahead of time.
At minimum, the moment county officials realized they were going to be sending out the new assessment notices 18 days late, the public should have been notified.
One could reasonably say that the handling of this countywide reassessment by Davies appears to have been done to maximize the stress it inflicted on county residents.
Common sense would dictate that when doing a countywide reassessment, county residents should be given as much time as possible to appeal their new assessments and the appeals process should be easy for them.
The fact that none of this was even on Davies’ radar makes us seriously question if she is fit for public office.
The people of Bannock County deserve so much better than this ill-conceived and botched countywide reassessment.
Davies and the commissioners should be ashamed.