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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 7, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Property assessments: Does the system need an overhaul?

Appeals process a tough fight for homeowners

In response to the article on property assessments [“Property taxes: Appeals shoot up,” page one, July 5]: It may be true that only a very small percentage of homeowners actually appeal assessed values, but that doesn’t mean the vast majority believe the assessment is fair and equitable.

Very few owners have the time and money to go through the appeals process. Those who have done so found the process heavily weighted against the owner. And when an owner does gain a reduction in the assessment, the assessor often reverts to his original assessment the following year, requiring the owner to go through the process again.

Does a state audit prove the bulk of home sales are really within 5 percent of the assessed value? What I saw was a listing of assessments and sales in which assessments were arrived at after the sales, and in which high assessments and low assessments were all added together, thus averaging the highs and lows and giving no true indicator of error.

— Tom Difloe, Camano Island

Tax cars and energy use, not houses

Granted, truly courageous politicians are as scarce as 300-pound Tour de France riders, but now is the time for a brave move to replace the volatile, subjective, almost always highly resented residential property tax with a system of energy-use taxes based on square footage and power source as well as a passenger-car gasoline tax more in line with the rest of the industrialized world.

We should tax people less for what they own and more for what they use. Yes, this is a regressive tax and the lack of a property levy may encourage more speculation in housing stock and drive prices up. But it could be coupled with limits on rents and on the selling price of property.

— David Feldman, Vancouver

Assessors aren’t gouging property owners

Lynn Thompson is incorrect, or at least misleading, when she writes that property taxes go up — despite declining assessed property values — when taxing entities such as local government decide to raise the same amount of revenue from one year to the next.

If everyone’s assessment goes down at the same rate, all other things being equal, everyone’s tax bill would stay the same. My taxes would go up in this scenario only if someone else’s property assessment declined more than mine.

I really wish newspaper reporters would be more careful and precise on this matter. Neither the assessors nor the local governments are using the burst housing bubble to gouge property owners out of taxes.

— Mike Stanger, Kirkland

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