Bannock County commissioners

Bannock County commissioners, from left, Steve Brown, Ernie Moser and Terrel “Ned” Tovey.

POCATELLO — The Bannock County Board of Equalization is conducting bulk neighborhood evaluations of property assessments that could potentially lower values, even for homeowners who didn’t appeal their 2019 appraised valuation.

Composed of Bannock County Commissioners Terrel “Ned” Tovey, Steve Brown and Ernie Moser, the board as of Thursday evening had handled about 600 of over 3,000 appeals filed on an individual basis, according to Tiffany Olsen, administrative services manager for the Bannock County Commission.

It also made adjustments to over 2,000 parcels in four of 14 large geographic areas the Bannock County Assessor’s office has classified as market neighborhood areas, Olsen added.

A market neighborhood area is a large geographic area that includes many property parcels in which appraisers in the assessor’s office applied a particular valuation adjustment based on the market value trend. Appraisers determine the market value trend by comparing the sales price for any homes in that neighborhood that were purchased within the last year.

The 2,000 adjusted parcels included properties that homeowners had filed appeals for regarding their assessed values, as well as those who did not file an appeal, and were located in market neighborhood areas in Inkom, Downey, Arimo and the Johnny Creek area in Pocatello, Olsen said.

The board adjusted the Johnny Creek market area because a consulting appraiser that the assessor’s office hired in April, Darcy Maag of the Caldwell-based Highland Appraisal Inc., uncovered a clerical error in the market value trend that was applied to the entire neighborhood, Olsen said.

The adjustment for the other three areas occurred because the board felt the value applied was not reflective of the actual market value, as those areas are much less metropolitan than north Bannock County, Olsen added.

Maag, who is set to receive $950 a day for helping the board and could ultimately earn about $14,000 for his appeals work, was hired by Bannock County Assessor Sheri Davies as a contracted commercial appraiser at a rate of $200 per parcel in April. Tovey said Maag has aided in most of the hearings.

In order to ensure it evaluates the remaining 2,400 appeals received by the extended July 8 deadline in which they were due, the board will evaluate and rule upon the remaining 10 market neighborhood areas as units by the close of business on Friday.

“We will make a decision on the assessed home values of all the properties in the county by the close of business tomorrow,” Tovey said.

“Either we are going to uphold the values for those market areas and indicate we didn’t have a chance to evaluate the appeals filed for properties in those areas, which preserves property owners’ rights to appeal, or we may make adjustments to those areas and if people are unsatisfied with those changes they can still appeal and move on.”

Essentially, the mass market neighborhood evaluations could result in a reduction in the assessed home values for people who didn’t even file an appeal; however, only those who have filed an appeal with the assessor’s office will have a chance to file a supplementary appeal with the state Board of Tax Appeals.

The decision to host mass evaluations approach has resulted in confusion among many county property owners, as they never received a call from the board to schedule an appointment to present their appeal, but that doesn’t mean they are without administrative remedies.

Within 10 days of Friday, the last board hearing date, the board must send a notice of action letter to every person who has filed an appeal and has not withdrawn that appeal for any reason. That letter will explain how to take further action if desired, Olsen said.

“Letter recipients can either accept the market and do nothing, or if they choose to appeal they can take it up in district court or to the state Board of (Tax) Appeals,” Olsen said. “We will have a notice on our website and in the county clerk’s office that people can use to access the form needed to file an appeal with the state Board of (Tax) Appeals.”

Those who wish to appeal to the Board of Tax Appeals have 30 days from the postmarked date on the action letter sent from the county, Olsen said.

The state Board of Tax Appeals will hear the appeals it receives in Pocatello, and Olsen said those hearings have historically happened in the Bannock County Courthouse, either in a courtroom or the commission chambers.

George Brown, property tax administrator with the Idaho State Tax Commission, said the Board of Tax Appeals hearings typically involve the person who filed the appeal, a hearing examiner or member of the board and a representative from the county assessor’s office.

“These hearings don’t cost anything in that taxpayers don’t have to pay anything to litigate, they don’t need an attorney and essentially it’s just like hearings before the Board of Equalization, the only difference is it’s a state body,” Brown said. “The Board of (Tax) Appeals is comprised of three board members and several hearing examiners, which means your case could be heard by a board member or one of the examiners.”

After the appeal has been heard, the Board of Tax Appeals issues a decision a few months later, said Brown, adding that whatever they decide to set the value at is good for two years because sometimes the decision comes out after the next assessment cycle has started.

Steve Brown told the Journal during a Thursday phone interview that he doesn’t necessarily feel excited as the county appeals process nears an end, but feels more resigned after weathering a very complex and convoluted process.

“I think this process has been frustrating for everyone involved,” Brown said. “I think we did our best under the circumstances, and we have the next six months to make sure that this doesn’t happen again in the way it unfolded this year.”

Reporter Shelbie Harris can be reached at 208-239-3525. Follow him on Twitter: @shelbietharris.