Is your property assessment too high?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007

Many of you received a tan card from the city's Assessor's Office last month. Did you like what you saw?

Sound off on the important issues at

I'm appealing my property-tax assessment, and I'd like to share why. My first issue is accuracy. Last fall, three houses in my neighborhood sold for less than their assessments. Two of the homes sold for more than 10 percent under the assessment and the other for 5 percent under. Check the selling price of homes recently sold in your neighborhood by calling a Realtor. Compare the selling price to the assessments. Is there an appreciable difference? Check assessments by going online to the city's assessor's roll. Houses can be located by street, owner's name or address.

My second issue has to do with the per-square-foot assessment. Divide your assessment by your square footage, then search the Finance Office's database to locate houses in your neighborhood that you feel are comparable. Then figure out their per-square-foot assessment and compare your neighbor's to yours.

A comparable house to mine has a per-square-footage assessment that is $20 per square foot less than mine. That translates into about a $42,000 difference in total assessment. That's more than a 10 percent difference. Who would you rather have spending your money, you or the city?

Dealing with the Assessor's Office isn't fun. Assessors walk through your house making mental notes of all they see and translate that information into a checklist. One came to my house last year and swaggered through as if he were checking off everything he might add on to get my assessment up.

After I filed my appeal, I was told by an assessor that my assessment was actually going up. He said he had run more current numbers from neighborhood house sales that upped the assessment by about $4,000, but if I dropped my appeal, he would let the lower figure stand. Did I feel a bit intimidated?

Do we need a property-tax ceiling like that recently passed in Fairbanks? That would be one way of dealing with this situation. We currently pay more than $12 million in property tax. That's more than double the tax that my brother-in-law pays in a comparable-sized city in southwest Washington. How about $9 million, or 25 percent less? Seems fair to me.

Steve Wolf


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