No one in Ada County's government seems to remember a sitting county commissioner appealing his property's assessed value before fellow commissioners.
But that's what happened Thursday. Commissioner Rick Visser asked fellow commissioners Dave Case and Jim Tibbs to reduce the assessed value of his Northwest Boise house. Visser said neighbors who park too many cars at their homes and don't maintain their lawns are depressing his property's value.
In the end, Case and Tibbs said they couldn't make a decision for someone with whom they have so close a working relationship.
County Clerk Chris Rich said he had never heard of this before, nor had people in his office. Case said the county's legal team, some of whom have worked there for decades, also couldn't remember this happening.
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Visser argued that County Assessor Bob McQuade's office overestimated the value of his 30-year-old, four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,500-square-foot house on Hickory Drive near the corner of Cloverdale and McMillan roads.
The assessor valued the property at $289,300, an increase of $51,000, or 21.4 percent, over last year's assessment.
Values set by the assessor are the basis for property taxes. The higher the assessed value, the more tax money a property generates through levies for local taxing agencies such as cities, counties and schools.
Every year, some owners fight the assessed value of their properties to lower their tax bills. Usually they start with the assessor. Often, they appeal to the county's Board of Equalization, which has the same members as the board of commissioners.
Visser argued that the value of his home should have taken into account features of the neighborhood, which include a run-down house next to his with peeling paint and a plywood structure supporting an air conditioning unit. The "deadbeat" neighbor refuses to maintain it and overwaters the yard, causing fence posts between the homes to rot, Visser said.
"The lawn is dead. Weeds are everywhere," Visser said. "It's just been a sore thumb for our neighborhood and, unfortunately, I live right next to him."
Visser said two nearby rentals with "cars parked everywhere" also depress the value of his property. He said homes similar to his and in the same neighborhood have sold for much less than his new assessed value. He suggested $252,500 is closer to the true market value of his property.
A representative of McQuade's office said there was no evidence that sales prices of homes in Visser's neighborhood warrant a value reduction. She called the $289,300 valuation "fair and equitable."
Case abstained from voting and, because one commissioner cannot decide an issue, Visser's appeal was automatically denied. Tibbs said he too would have abstained.
"Whatever decision that we'd make, I think that we would be criticized by the public," Tibbs said. "And quite frankly, I don't think it's appropriate for two sitting commissioners to make a decision on the third commissioner. It is, I think, a direct conflict of interests."
Visser said Friday he plans take up his appeal with the state's Board of Tax Appeals.