Letter: Disturbing facts about town's appeals process

Posted 10/28/19

To the editor:

I respect Mr. Brier’s suggestion to follow the appeal process for settling assessment disputes. In fact, we did just that about a year ago. However, I would like to highlight …

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Letter: Disturbing facts about town's appeals process

Posted

To the editor:

I respect Mr. Brier’s suggestion to follow the appeal process for settling assessment disputes. In fact, we did just that about a year ago. However, I would like to highlight the discrepancy between this seemingly appropriate suggestion and the actual reality of this process.

We moved into town in May 2018 and very quickly saw our assessment and property taxes increase by about 33 percent. We were uncertain if appealing made sense to us, so I went to the assessor’s office to gather more information. In the assessor’s office I directly asked if someone could simply explain to me why our assessment and taxes had increased. Instead of receiving an explanation, I was told, “If you don’t think it’s right, you can appeal it”. I then clarified that, as a lay person unfamiliar with assessment procedures, I did not have the context to know if this is “right” and that I would be happy with a simple explanation. I once again did not receive an explanation and was told, “If you don’t think it’s right, you can appeal it”. That led us to our first appeal, something we happily would have avoided had someone in the assessor’s office simply explained to us what had happened.

When the first appeal did not yield significant results, we filed a second appeal. When obtaining the paperwork from the assessor’s office, I once again inquired about what exactly we would need to include in the packet of information for the second appeal. I was told, “Include whatever you think is important”. When I then sought further clarification, I received the same response. As a lay person with no context for filing property assessment appeals, this was not only not useful but also not transparent.

We sought help from a relative to gather the relevant information. We could easily demonstrate that within our neighborhood several other properties were very similar to ours on paper but were assessed between about 20-33 percent less.  

At the second appeals meeting, many homeowners, including myself, presented comparable homes with similar specs to their own but with significantly dissimilar assessments. However, instead of focusing on these discrepancies, many of us were asked if we thought our house was worth what we paid for it. We were then funneled to the conclusion that because we paid what we did for our house, we could therefore not prove that it was NOT worth what we paid for it, and thus it was valid to assess the house at that amount. Not only is this not in any way an objective measure of anything given fluctuations in market value, personal choice in purchase price, and regional home prices, it also lacks any form of logic.

I fully appreciate and respect following the appropriate channels designed to address these needs. However, when we, and many others in this town, did just that, we were met with a complete lack of information, direction, transparency, respect, and even basic logic.

Jordyn Hagar

Barrington

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