The Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds Office (“Assessor’s Office”) has recently posted 2017 preliminary real property valuations on its website. Many residents of Douglas County were shocked to see their valuations skyrocket, with some homeowners seeing their valuations nearly double. Diane Battiato, the County Assessor, has stated that the increased valuations are due to two factors: many properties have not been reappraised by the Assessor’s Office for several years, and an active real estate market has been driving up the value of homes.
In an effort to ease the burden on Douglas County taxpayers, there have been proposed courses of action suggested by Mayor Jean Stothert and by the Douglas County Commissioners in response to the Assessor’s Office’s 2017 preliminary valuations, including a nonbinding resolution passed by the Commissioners on January 31, 2017, asking Battiato to limit homeowners’ 2017 property valuation increases to 3 percent. As of the writing of this article, however, no further action has been taken by the Assessor’s Office with respect to the preliminary valuations.
In response to the increased valuations, a taxpayer has the following options in attempting to lower his or her valuation:
INFORMAL MEETING WITH APPRAISER FROM THE ASSESSOR’S OFFICE
First, a taxpayer can request an informal meeting with an appraiser from the Assessor’s Office. This meeting is not mandatory (i.e. you can still file a formal Property Valuation Protest without having an informal meeting) but it presents an early opportunity to state your case to the Assessor’s Office. A taxpayer must request this meeting by calling the Assessor’s Office at (402) 444-6734, by February 10, 2017. Alternatively, taxpayers have the option to mail, e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or drop off information (at the Omaha Douglas County Civic Center, Fourth Floor, 1819 Farnam Street) relevant to property valuation for an appraiser with the Assessor’s Office to review. All information must be received in the Assessor’s Office no later than February 28, 2017.
FORMAL PROPERTY VALUATION PROTEST
Final valuations are set by the Assessor in May 2017. If a taxpayer disagrees with the final valuation and decides that he or she wants to attempt to lower the valuation, he or she must file a formal Property Valuation Protest between the dates of June 1 and June 30, 2017, with the Douglas County Board of Equalization (https://www.boardofequalization.org/). The forms for a Property Valuation Protest are provided by the Board of Equalization and are roughly two or three pages in length (supporting materials – comparable home information, an appraisal of your property, photos of the property, recent sale documents, etc. – can be attached). Protests are reviewed and acted upon by the Douglas County Board of Equalization. Again, a taxpayer may file a property valuation protest even if he or she did not request an informal meeting with the Assessor’s Office. If the Property Valuation Protest to the Board of Equalization is not successful, the homeowner may appeal the outcome to the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission (https://terc.nebraska.gov/).
The factors that influence a decision to protest a valuation are many and varied. Obviously, a successful protest will lower your home’s valuation and correspondingly lower your property tax burden. However, if homes in your neighborhood have been selling at or above the assessed values, a protest may not be successful. Additionally, if you are planning on selling your home, attempting to lower your property valuation through a protest may not be in your best interests (buyers take many factors into account when searching for a home, but many may start their research at the Assessor’s website and look at the assessed value of the home).
Fraser Stryker has experienced attorneys who are ready to assist you with property valuation issues and protests. You may wish to consult with an attorney for support and advice in advance of an informal meeting with the Assessor’s Office or in submitting your own Property Valuation Protest and supporting documents. Or, you may wish to have an attorney attend an informal meeting, research, gather supporting documents, and submit the Property Valuation Protest on your behalf. Our attorneys can advise and assist in ways that ensure your voice is heard. Fixed fees can be discussed at an initial consultation.