Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2006

Property owners make cases to Board of Tax Appeals

November 16, 2006, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: November 16, 2006, 9:54 a.m.

Andi Pawlowski said she was nervous and didn't want Tuesday's hearing in a fourth-floor conference room at the Leavenworth County Justice Center to be adversarial.

But to the Lansing City Council member's left sat county counselor Keyta Kelly and assistant county appraiser Bill Weber. They were trying their best to convince the person across the table from them, Rebecca Crotty, that Pawlowski was in error and the value the county placed on her home wasn't too high, as Pawlowski was alleging.

It's a situation in which Crotty finds herself almost daily. As chair of the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals, it's the job of Crotty and two fellow board members to rule when county appraisers are or aren't in line with the values they place on thousands of pieces of property across the state.

"This time of the year, we get a lot of residential appeals," Crotty said after hearing Pawlowski's appeal, one of eight scheduled Tuesday, Nov. 14, in Leavenworth County.

A year ago, Crotty said, the board heard more than 1,100 appeals on tax issues in Kansas.

Tuesday, Crotty was the lone member of the board hearing cases in Leavenworth County. Her two counterparts were in other parts of the state hearing cases.

They'll gather their notes, exhibits and testimony transcripts and meet about each case later on at their headquarters in Topeka.

Their decisions can mean the difference in thousands of dollars in property taxes owed.

Recently, Crotty said, the entire board sat for an extended hearing regarding an appeal of value by Nebraska Furniture Mart.

"It's a big valuation case," she said.

For the cases heard Tuesday, Crotty said, the wait shouldn't be long.

"We try to get our decisions out quickly, within 30 days," she said.

At the start of Pawlowski's hearing, the county announced it had lowered its original value placed on Pawlowski's house on Canyon View Drive, down from the $352,000 it placed on the house in March.

"Three hundred and twenty-one thousand dollars. That's what you feel is fair-market value?" Kelly asked Weber.

Yes, he answered.

Pawlowski wasn't convinced. A private appraisal she paid for placed it below the new figure. A recently drawn map by the Department of Homeland Security put the house in the floodplain - meaning costly flood insurance for Pawlowski and a less-than-appealing selling point on the property.

Asked to place her own value on the home, Pawlowski said she didn't know because of the floodplain issue.

"What I'm saying is if it weren't in the floodplain, it would sell in the mid-320s," she said.

Afterwards, Crotty said the floodplain issue was a new one raised during her tenure.

"As many of these cases that are similar, every day we have new issues come up," she said.

Once the board rules, Pawlowski has the same decision to make as any other Kansan who goes before the board: Accept the ruling or appeal it to District Court.

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