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December 20, 2014

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Disagree with county appraiser’s value on your home? Take your case to this board

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Leila Navidi

The Board of Equalization meeting at the Clark County Commission Chambers in Las Vegas on Friday, February 22, 2013.

Board of Equalization

The Board of Equalization meeting at the Clark County Commission Chambers in Las Vegas on Friday, February 22, 2013. Launch slideshow »

It’s 8 a.m. on a recent Saturday at the Clark County Commission chambers as five members of the Board of Equalization take the dais, coffee cups in hand.

The chamber seats are filled with homeowners from throughout the valley. Some are angry, many are confused and others are just plain tired, but they all share a common cause — they think the assessed value of their house is too high.

The first case is called — a three-bedroom, 7,636-square-foot Green Valley Ranch home valued at $1.65 million — and the hearing is under way.

Over the next five hours, the board will work its way through a 30-page agenda, calling on more than 50 homeowners individually to make their arguments about why the county assessor’s office overvalued their house.

The Green Valley homeowner, bearing a recent appraisal valuing the property at $1.1 million, is successful and her assessed value is reduced to $1.3 million, but victories would be hard to come by that day.

It’s a David vs. Goliath-type situation as homeowners, often with little to no real estate background, present before a board made up of certified appraisers with 100-plus years of combined experience. Three of four cases fail and the county’s assessed value is upheld, but for the few with the right list of comparable home prices or a recent home appraisal, the board can lower their assessed value and potentially save them some money on their property tax bill.

“The people that appeal it the majority of the time wish they had a case,” board member R. Scott Dugan said. “Some of them do. We help people when we can, but sometimes we can’t because people are unrealistic.”

With about 730,000 parcels in the county, errors in assessed values crop up because the county’s assessors office appraises “like properties” in groups of 50 to help save time.

By law, assessed values are supposed to be equitable to similar properties in an area and must not exceed the full market value of the property.

Assessed values have an impact on property taxes paid by the owner, even though those property tax increases are capped at 3 percent per year, stymieing the impact of large jumps in property value.

“We’re pretty solid, but there are things that come to light that we’re not aware of. We do make mistakes and we really want to correct those when they’re brought to our attention,” said Rocky Steele, assistant director of assessment services for the county assessor.

The Board of Equalization will hear more than 5,600 appeals between February and the beginning of March. With so many cases, the board has met three times a week, including Saturdays, for the past month, with meetings often lasting more than five hours. Many property owners fail to show up for their scheduled hearing, resulting in a default judgment against them.

The number of appeals has dropped significantly in the past few years after reaching a high of 10,658 cases in 2011 due to turmoil in the housing market.

To help lighten the workload, the board, which has five members and five alternates, hears commercial and residential property appeals on different days, swapping out board members based on their availabilities and expertise.

Board members are paid $125 per day, a fraction of what they make doing private work, and many say they serve out of a sense of public duty.

“I look at it as community service, giving back to the community in a way that uses my skills,” said board member Kathleen Nylen, a principal at PBTK Consulting.

Dugan, who has been on the board since 1993, has been appraising homes in the valley for 40 years and owns his own appraisal company.

With so many cases to get through, he has little patience for homeowners who aren’t prepared and he’s unafraid to raise his voice with stubborn homeowners.

“There’s always those people who think they’re right and the rest of the world is wrong,” Dugan said. “I try to calm them down and make sense and rationalize with them to a degree, but sometimes we just can’t.”

Those who disagree with the board’s rulings can appeal to the state Board of Equalization.

After arriving at 7:15 a.m. and nervously waiting as the board rejected appeal after appeal, homeowner Laurie Howard-Malm finally got her chance to argue her home’s value around noon Saturday.

A 2,800-square-foot home near Warm Springs Road and Decatur Boulevard, Howard-Malm’s property initially was assessed at a value of $502,000 by the county.

“I came here last year but didn’t go before the board because I was so overwhelmed and I didn’t have the statistics I needed,” she said. “It’s worse than the DMV.”

This year, armed with a list of comparable properties in her neighborhood and information about a nearby railroad that rattles the windows of her home when trains pass, Howard-Malm argued the home was worth about $300,000. Board members agreed the home wasn’t worth what the county said, lowering its assessed value to $350,000.

“I would have liked it to go down more, but I can see why they weren’t going to do that,” she said. “My husband and I are trying to get to the point where we can retire completely, and property taxes make a difference on a limited income.”

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  1. During testimony in Carson City November 5, 2012 at the NV State Board of Equalization per Writ of Mandamus filed August 21, 2012 Village League to Save Incline Assets, Inc. v. State Board of Equalization in case #CV-03-06922 Second Judicial District Court state of NV. Department 7,COMMANDED the state Board of Equalization to take such actions as are required to notice and hold public hearings to hear and determine grievances of property owners regarding the failure ,or lack of equalization throughout the state"..

    Paul Rupp and Dehnert Queen testified November 5, 2012 challenging any County Assessor in Nevada to show how they calculate parcel property taxes from start to finish. To date NO Assessor has stepped forward to take the challenge? Why not???

    Our comparative parcels on a graph chart produced for 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012 appeals to NV State Board of Equalization in Carson City, showed beyond any doubt Nevada property taxes are NOT fair or apportioned as per U.S. constitutional requirements.

    Using algorithms on parcels of Esmeralda County officials and employees we discovered how insiders received special property tax rates compared to regular non-insider parcel owners.

    Equalization Order 12-001 Dated this 8th day February, 2012 > Nevada State Board of Equalization page 6 states" "The state Board requested the Esmeralda County Assessor to inspect the property to ensure the improvements are listed correctly. The State Board took no further action on the grievance because it would require changes in the law. See Tr., 11-5-12, p. 36, II. 2-25. The Department offered to provide training to the county board of equalization. See Tr. 11-5-12, p. 38, II. 1-9."

    Translation of the above order". we only do what we want to do" even when shown to be a complete fraud.

    Nevada State and County Boards of Equalization are clearly a dog and pony show, Bow-WoW"..

    Paul Rupp using P.O. Box 125 SP NV 89047

  2. Correction> Equalization Order 12-001 Dated this 8th day February, 2013

  3. Further the State Board of Equalization hearings were NOT NOTICED in central Nevada Tonopah Times....

    Guess they didn't need or want anyone testifing from Esmeralda or Northen Nye Counties contrary to
    Second Judicial District Court state of NV. Department 7,Command...