(City and Borough of Juneau photo)

(City and Borough of Juneau photo)

My Turn: Property tax assessment and guardrails

The “money grab” by the CBJ Assessor’s Office is over with passage of new legislation this session. The CBJ is required to follow written assessment standards that they only gave lip service in the past. Please show up to the assessor office and hearings with appraisals and income and expense information. The Board of Equalization is newly required to state findings if they disagree with your appraisal.

Per the IAAO, “in an appeal, a complete defense does take on some elements of a single-property appraisal. Computer-assisted mass appraisal for all its strengths tends to retreat into the background during a protest. A protest, by nature of its focus on an individual property, often requires the skill of individual property appraisal.”

While the mill rate is the proper mechanism to adjust property taxes, for years the CBJ has weaponized the mill rate by telling the public they lowered the mill rate a miniscule amount while raising assessed values far beyond market value to deceive the public.

It is too late in the game to raise the mill rate now and ignore the years of excessive assessment and taxation to fund CBJ budgets.

Basically the CBJ gouged property owners for years and now want to use the mill rate lawfully to increase property taxes again. The Assembly must not be allowed to pull off taking advantage of property owners yet again.

The CBJ used “outdated models” (2017) in a mass appraisal technique to exclude the following:

• Prevailing conditions (state offices leaving Juneau, the pandemic, remote work, 38,000 sq. ft. of vacant office/commercial space)

• Twenty-one (21) market sales all lower than assessed value, and “Alaska Taxable 2021 (issued January, 2022) Preparation of a Sales Ratio Study, Assemble Sales Data 1(a) to collect sales from all sources data such as recorders’ offices, realtors, developers and bankers to obtain sales data for Ratio Studies.”

• Commercial property assessments far exceeded market value since 2005, which explains why assessed values were flat from 2005 to 2019.

Property assessments have been bloated since 2005 because the CBJ has a history of using commercial property owners to “money grab” for funding the CBJ. The above wrongful actions resulted in the finance department concluding “It Would Seem” there was a “tax shift” from commercial property to residential property. There was no “tax shift.” The only “shift” that occurred was the “shifty” behavior of the Assembly, city manager, finance director and assessor.

CBJ ignores IAAO “highly recommended” policy by failing to conduct “Informal Review” to obstruct CBJC 15.05. Thereby denying “a large number of property owners [their right] to obtain information, state their grievances, and resolve their appeals in a simple, low-cost manner.” CBJ gives lip service to following IAAO standards, but in application fails to follow IAAO standards in hearings by using appraisals to value commercial property on appeal. The State Assessor provided training to property owners not to get an appraisal because they are “just an expensive piece of evidence” that the Board of Equalization’s will not use.

Clearly, CBJC 15.05. should be applied to determine the assessed value of commercial property on appeal. CBJC 15.05.190(c)(6) states, relevant evidence for the board of equalization to consider is purchase and closing statement, appraisal reports, broker opinions of value, engineer reports, estimates to repair, rent rolls, leases, and income and expense information. Mass appraisal is not mentioned in CBJC 15.05 or anywhere.

The standard to measure assessed value is CBJC 15.05.100 which says, Property shall be assessed at its full and true value in money, as of January 1 of the assessment year. In determining the full and true value of property in money, the person making the return, or the assessor, as the case may be, shall not adopt a lower or different standard of value because the same is to serve as a basis of taxation…but the assessor shall value the property at a sum which the assessor believes it is fairly worth in money at the time of assessment.” For years, the assessor has coerced property owners to accept high assessed values with threats of even higher assessed value far beyond market value.

The standard to value property is its “Full and True Value.” There is no reason to rely on vague and manipulated “outdated” mass appraisal models in the name of uniformity to supplant “Full and True Value.”

The community must get the will to stop the Assembly from destroying affordability in Juneau.

• Greg Adler is a principal in the Goldstein Improvement Co. His family has owned property and conducted business in Juneau since the 1880s.

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