Greg Adler: Property tax fairness bill is needed to prevent wacky property assessments

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By GREG ADLER

It is time to voice support for property tax fairness by encouraging passage of Senate Bill 242, a bill introduced by Sen. Jesse Kiehl. This bill aims to restore public trust in Alaska’s property assessment process. Bipartisan support for Kiehl’s bill is demonstrated by Rep. Julie Coulumbe, who introduced House Bill 347, a bill that is identical to Kiehl’s.

These bills maintain local flexibility and control while requiring baseline standards to establish transparency and a fair property assessment process. Make sure your senator and representative are aware of the Property Tax Fairness bills and ask for their support.

State law requires property to be assessed at its full and true value. 

Unfortunately, a property owner’s right to just and fair hearings with impartial decisions is not protected by laws as they stand. Local assessors are not required to maintain professional credentials or follow published standards. Current law also allows assessment increases upon appeal, which has the chilling effect of discouraging taxpayers from exercising their rights out of fear of retaliation.

A property I appealed was assessed at more than double what I paid for it one month after closing escrow due to a combination of failures in the current law. The City and Borough of Juneau assessor justified the wacky assessed value by using a wacky software model that cherry picked the data.  

The CBJ assessor written report also plagiarized data from a property that was not comparable to argue our property was not a market sale because it took 60 days to market and should have taken 9 months. Clearly, low sales prices lower the whacky software model and the CBJ assessor is hot on the tail of such properties in the backroom tinkering with such sales and slipping them into the outlier category when in fact they are the market.  

Licensed appraisers and certified assessors know two things: 1) Use good comps and 2) Presenting the Board of Equalization with inaccurate statements not only taints the board in your favor, is unfair to Appellants but is patently against professional ethics. 

There is no denying our sale was an arms-length transaction at its full and true market value, and our MAI appraisals honestly represented the full and true value of our properties.  We conclude the CBJ assessor is entrenched in pursuing inflated assessed property values.

In advance of this year’s assessment, I supplied Juneau’s assessor’s office with six MAI (Member, Appraisal Institute) appraisals. They were provided to help value our property and similar properties in Juneau’s downtown district. The  assessor told me he was familiar with the appraisals and the work of the appraiser and agreed they accurately reflect the value of the properties. He stated that he is also familiar with sales in the downtown district. 

When I asked if we could expect our assessed values to follow the appraisals and sales, the assessor said “No.” I was astounded by this response, considering that appraisals and sales are full and true value. The Juneau assessor explained that he has wacky old software assessment models on which he relies, and the value he sets will be based on his these models.  He said to expect a 7% decline, but not full and true value.
 
The problem is that assessed value by local and state law is based on full and true value, not a wacky software model that has proven to inflate property values. If the assessor has full knowledge that his software model results in wacky assessments, he should utilize market sales and appraisals in good faith to inform his model and modify assessed values.

Supporting wacky software models may be rational to someone who has no requirement to follow standards, but not to the homeowner, business owner, or investor.

My experience tells me the Juneau Assembly, city manager, and finance director have no interest in changing the present system. I submit that public trust in the assessor office must be restored. Moreover, these bad actors should reconsider their actions and take positive steps in support of good governance for the best interest of the community. 

These issues are also occurring in other communities throughout the state. It is time to voice your support for openness and impartial hearings when it comes to property assessments.

Act now by contacting your legislators to encourage them to support SB 242 and HB 347 to establish property tax fairness in Alaska’s statutes.

Greg Adler is a principal at Goldstein Improvement Co. His family has owned property and conducted business in Juneau since the 1880s. Adler and his family own a home on Pioneer Avenue in West Juneau.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I love the fact that this bill is already being presented. Senator Kiehl, Told us back in November to change this in our borough code. That it would be faster….well guess he had forgotten we are in Haines, nothing happens faster in Haines. We still have to wait for 3 more assembly meetings!!!

    Thank you Greg and Kiehl.

    Everyone else make calls to your legislators in support of this new bill, to protect Alaskans from bad actors.

  2. When a city, such as Anchorage has a tax. Cap the only way to raise taxes is to do the
    Exact thing in appraisals. You then have to pay money for an appeal!

    • My appraisal came in 10% higher than last year so these blood sucking thieves on the assembly can give their compatriots in the homeless industrial complex more money and buy more properties they can give to no profits. When the non profit gets their name on a property, it is exempted from property tax on the tax rolls. Go to MOA appraisal site and check it out. And the deal they made with the Key Bank Plaza shows ZERO taxes on the MOA appraisal site. They are screwing the homeowner in Anchorage, plain plain and simple.

  3. I get concerned anytime someone uses the term “fair”. Fair is subjective.
    The left uses “fair” all the time.

    Try setting realistic guidelines-with penalties for violating them- instead of “fair”

  4. Always skeptical of a solution to government problems that demand a higher level of government to intervene.

    I feel for the residents of Haines but surrendering local control is not the answer.

  5. Property tax is no good. It’s tough to collect, it’s tough to establish value of individual properties. The only reasonable tax is sales tax. Of course this will never happen because it will cost a bunch of bureaucrats their jobs.

    • Bingo! Well said! You can pay off your Mortgage and never truly own your property. Stop paying your property taxes and see what happens. The Real Estate business is another giant Ponzi scheme for bankers, State and local governments to rob you of your hard-earned money. A sales tax would be great. Income and property taxes need to go bye-bye.

  6. Abolish property taxes and institute a VAT. With property taxes, you never own your house and the dirt it sits on.

  7. Property tax is a leftover from days of kingdom and monarchy when all belonged to the king. You own your home and land only with permission of the government. Property tax is immoral to free people and in a free state, all property tax should be outlawed.

  8. Your property is being assessed for inflation without regard for depreciation. Depreciation occurs rapidly in our climate and the cost of rebuilding has increased dramatically. Square footage is not the only factor, but the main basis of the assessment. They are saying that a fifty year old structure has the same value as new construction. And the chicken shack that you and your children slapped together has value, as well as your rotten deck. The appeal process does work in Anchorage, and everyone should be encouraged to use it. Like a used car, houses depreciate with age.

  9. Tax annually based the the price you paid for it till you sell it. More incentive to improve it. Penalties for selling way below market value such as half price on paper half cash etc.

    • Yes, the last time I checked (two minutes ago) Senator Kiehl is a leftist Democrat from the leftist community of Juneau. Let us remember that as a Senator from Juneau, he gets paid 3/4 of the state per diem to live in his own home in Juneau while the Legislature is in session and any day that he can claim that he is working on state business when the legislature is out of session. The top leftist Democrat in the nation is always talking about the “rich” not paying their fair share of income taxes when they already pay about 1/2 of all U S income taxes. The top “one percenter” earns a little under $700k. The term “fair” is whatever the leftists want it to be.

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