Has David defeated Goliath?
Using a slingshot fashioned by the Village League to Save Incline Assets, loaded with the weapon of truth, local property owners this month were awarded a $13 million refund for Washoe County’s wrongful assessment of Incline Village and Crystal Bay property for the 2005-2006 tax year.
This is just one of several legal challenges the Village League has won in the courts due to illegal property assessment methods in our community; but hopefully this Oct. 6 ruling serves as the death blow to the arrogant, unyielding giant of Washoe County tax policy.
District Court Judge Brent Adams ordered Washoe County Treasurer Bill Berrum to refund 8,700 north shore property owners in support of the State Board of Equalization’s decision on July 20, 2009 to roll back 2006-07 property values for those residential parcels to 2002-03 levels.
The refunds were estimated to be approximately $13 million plus interest by Finance Director John Sherman earlier this year. Approximately $5 million would be paid from Washoe County government itself; the remainder to be paid from other entities that received property tax revenues from the Incline Village/Crystal Bay property owners, such as the school district (estimated at $4.5 million), the fire department, the state of Nevada, and IVGID.
“In compliance with the judge’s decision, this office is immediately gearing up to begin processing the refunds,” Treasurer Bill Berrum said. “Due to the volume and the complexity, though, this task can possibly take months to complete.”
While waiting for the checks to arrive, however, the Village League is telling property owners to continue to pay their 2009-2010 property taxes under protest until those bills reflect the proper amount due, since the State Board of Equalization decision has rolled each and every residential property back to the 2002-03 level.
Washoe County could still file yet another appeal on that decision, and county spokesperson Kathy Carter said the District Attorney’s office is reviewing its options.
The battle began in December 2002 when the Village League to Save Incline Assets was formed after angry residents started taking note of arbitrary property appraisals. The methods identified included using “tear-downs” to appraise vacant land values, a time adjustment, view adjustments made from places other than the ground, condominium land values based on single-family residential values, and arbitrary comparisons such as the number of rocks on the beach. In June 2004, the Nevada Tax Commission adopted new rules of assessment which made the above methods illegal.
“At the heart of all the legal measures that have been heard since 2002 over this issue is the fact that the courts have ruled the Washoe County Assessor did not have the authority to impose the valuation methods used during years in question as it was not expressly given by the State Tax Commission,” a county statement said.
For a complete history, click here (http://www.nevadapropertytaxrevolt.org/pages/History.html)
Trying the right the wrong has been a test in patience, expense and endurance for the Village League, as it has had to meticulously work through the county Board of Equalization, the state Board of Equalization, the Nevada Tax Commission, the District Court, and the state Supreme Court. Multiple lawsuits have been filed, of which several are still pending decisions on appeals. Court cases have been won by small groups of Incline taxpayers, and refunds have been granted to the tune of $7 million to nearly 900 residents so far, but this latest order affects all the properties in IV/CB.
Equal justice for all is the ringing claim of the Village League to Save Incline Assets and, after a seven-year legal battle the grassroots organization is claiming victory for all of Incline Village and Crystal Bay’s taxpayers.
Goliath is dead…we hope.
To receive timely email updates, thank your hard-working Village League advocates, read a complete history of Incline’s tax revolt, contribute to the legal fund, or learn how this impacts your specific property’s land taxable value for the tax years 2002-03 through 2009-10, visit the Village League’s web site, www.nevadapropertytaxrevolt.org.