POCATELLO — Bannock County mailed new property tax assessment notices covering more than 40,000 parcels 18 days late on Friday, Assessor Sheri Davies confirmed.
Davies said it’s likely property owners will receive their notices after a Monday state deadline for appealing values, but she and the Bannock County Commission will honor appeals, nonetheless.
“After being in close contact with the State Tax Commission, we were advised Bannock County, due to extenuating circumstances out of our control, has every right to make the decision to honor every taxpayers right to appeal or question anything to do with their current notice,” said Davies, who started in her elected position in January.
Davies said the delays were mostly due to a decision made last year to implement two new software systems, which still have many bugs to work out.
Davies said property owners with concerns about the fairness of their new values should first contact the appraiser listed on their notice. Davies will personally meet with concerned property owners, and if no resolution is reached, she said her office will gladly help them to fill out appeal paperwork.
The Bannock County Board of Equalization is scheduled to hear appeals through July 8. If necessary, Davies said the County Commission will file with the state for an extension to continue meetings.
“Please call as soon as you get your notice if you have concerns, corrections or would like to talk about your new value,” Davies said.
George Brown, property tax administrator with the Idaho State Tax Commission, said his office has been working closely with Davies and her staff to resolve the issue. He said the commission imposes no penalties for late mailings by counties.
He said no other counties were significantly late this year. Brown said the new computer software was just one facet of a “perfect storm” of factors behind Bannock County’s delays. He mentioned the assessor’s office also has new staff members, a new assessor and extra work resulting from “drastic increases in property values.”
The average home value in Southeast Idaho increased by 19.26 percent in 2018 compared with the previous year, according to the Greater Pocatello Association of Realtors.
“That’s the greatest increase we’ve experienced since we’ve been keeping records, and that goes back to 1978,” said Eli Townsend, the organization’s president.
The county treasurer’s office also had a busy day on Friday, as many property owners came in to pay their taxes a day late, with fees and interest added. Office staff explained taxpayers often rely on receiving their assessment notice as a reminder that it’s also tax time.
Davies emphasized assessment notices are unrelated to the tax payment deadline and should trigger awareness among residents about the need to review their property values — not to be used as a de-facto notice of a tax bill.
Prior to the software change, the appraisal department used “dinosaur” DOS software built in-house for the county. Last year, the office switched to software provided by the state, called ProVAL. Davies explained the old and new programs weren’t compatible, so appraisers and other staff members have had to enter data by hand and re-sketch every property map.
She said the recent assessment notices were developed with a combination of the old and new software.
“With the staff we have, it will take us the rest of the year to hopefully get the rest of the parcels (entered into ProVAL),” Davies said.
In April, her office also implemented new administration software called UAD Web. Challenges with implementing that software have impeded her office’s ability to print assessments with accurate data, she said.
Davies said she chose against alerting the public about the late notices after the June 3 mailing deadline passed because she believed a solution was close at hand. Further, she worried the work would be further delayed if her office were inundated with calls.
“If I should have handled it differently, my apologies,” Davies said. “We just tried to think this through and just make it to where we could get the job done.”
Brown said he hasn’t heard of a county being so late in mailing notices in recent years, though he said it’s not unprecedented.
“I think I probably would have sent something out before now,” Brown said. “As far as notification ... I would never say not to tell the taxpayers what’s going on.”
Davies said a ratio study conducted by a consulting appraiser with the State Tax Commission, intended to guide the process of updating values, showed both commercial and residential properties had gotten out of compliance. Commercial properties had especially poor conformity, ranging from 50 percent below market value to 160 percent above it.
“We’re confident that our new software and procedures will help us improve our conformity,” she said.
In the late spring, she brought in a new commercial appraising company that’s done work on behalf of the state to remedy the situation.
Idaho taxes are collected six months in arrears. Forms are available online at bannockcounty.us/assessor/ for anyone wishing to appeal an assessment.