Juneau Assembly to vote on change in process for property-tax appeals

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Juneau Assembly will decide Monday if it is finished hearing appeals of city property tax assessments.

A proposed ordinance would pave the way for new Board of Equalization panels to replace the Assembly as the final step in the city's appeal process, Juneau Finance Director Craig Duncan said.

He said the current system is inefficient because up to 30 people may have to wait for their case to be called before the Assembly on one day of the year. If three-member panels with expertise in property valuation heard the cases there would be more efficiency and flexibility, he said.

"The Assembly members are not necessarily experts on the valuation of property," Duncan said. "This change would possibly remove the cases out of the political arena. It is sometimes difficult if elected officials hear from an irate taxpayer who are not getting what they want."

Assembly member Merrill Sanford agreed that the process is sometimes inefficient and time-consuming, but he believes it is the Assembly's responsibility to continue hearing the appeals. Sanford vowed to vote no at Monday night's Assembly meeting.

"It is a good thing for us to hear the tax issues up front so we can have an idea of what is happening in the community," Sanford said.

Under the current system, a homeowner first has the right to appeal the assessed value to the assessor's office, Duncan said. The assessor's office will then send someone out to visually inspect the home. If the individual and assessor are still at odds it then goes to the Board of Equalization, he said.

If the ordinance were approved it would now go to a three-person panel instead of the Assembly.

• Jason Steele can be reached at jason.steele@juneauempire.com.

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