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Countywide : Assessor Will Skip 20 Appeal Hearings

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County Assessor Bradley L. Jacobs has decided not to send representatives to more than 20 property tax assessment-appeal hearings this summer, contending his office is understaffed and can’t handle the workload.

As a result, two hearing boards Monday were forced to rule on about 100 appeals without testimony from county appraisers. The hearings give property owners a chance to protest the county’s valuation of their land and to seek lower tax assessments.

Some people involved in the hearing process expressed concerns Tuesday about Jacobs’ action, which they said could cause the county to lose assessment appeals and collect less property tax revenue.

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Homeowners stand to benefit the most at hearings that county adjusters do not attend. Under law, a homeowner is presumed to have the correct assessment value unless the county can prove otherwise.

“It’s like free money,” said Jim Bone, an accountant and former appeals board member.

Appeals board members said that Monday’s hearings went relatively smoothly.

Kent Pierce, chairman of Appeals Board No. 3, said his panel was able to render decisions that were fair to both the county and property owners even without the participation of the assessor’s office. A representative from the office attended Monday’s hearing but did not present testimony, Pierce said.

Still, Pierce said the lack of evidence from the assessor’s office could create problems, especially in disputes where a property owner claims a much lower property value than the county’s assessment. “We are bound to look at the evidence presented,” he said.

Jacobs did not return several phone calls seek comment.

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