A letter sent to the Platte County Board of Supervisors said the Nebraska Income Tax Assessment Division disagreed with some county assessors on how to handle the dramatic increases in some property assessments caused by a new law.
In fairness, county and state offices may not have had enough time to measure the impacts of the changes before they went into effect, according to at least one county official.
A law passed in Nebraska last year changed the way county assessors determine land valuation. As a result, some valuations have changed dramatically. In Platte County, landowners attended protest hearings in July, raising their grievances to the Platte County Board of Supervisors.
The Nebraska Department’s Property Tax Assessment Division predicted the dramatic assessment increases and, to prevent them, recommended that assessors make exceptions for how certain lots were assessed under the new system.
The division’s property tax administrator Ruth Sorensen said these exceptions are justified because the significantly increased valuations do not reflect the overall actual market for land sales, which is stable or declining.
But, Platte County did not make the adjustments recommended by the division. In early July, Sorensen sent letters to several counties – including Platte – regarding the recommendations.
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Platte County Assessor Tom Placzek argues that it is the duty of the County Assessor to conduct fair and equal assessments.
“Following the state’s recommendations, we would only consider them because they increased and because people protested,” Placzek said.
This, he said, is not a fair system.
Things might have been different if county and state offices had had more time to consider the effects of the change on valuations, Placzek said, but they didn’t have that time.
Sorensen also said more time would have allowed the division to investigate the impact of the changes on ratings in each county.
“The only thing we’re talking about is if we had an extra year to look at the data, we wouldn’t be reviewing this now,” Sorensen said. “But we didn’t and that’s where we are.”
In addition, many appraisers may have had the impression that the bill would only affect appraisals of prairie agricultural properties.
“When the bill was passed, it was assumed that it would only impact the grasslands. And if you read the bill, it doesn’t say grass, dry or irrigated. So unfortunately there have been assumptions that since I don’t have a lot of weed, I don’t even have to think about this conversion. But the bill is drafted in such a way that it is only about land use, ”Sorensen said.
Placzek said he had a conversation with someone from the state office on Tuesday morning. He said he was told they would re-study certain types of soil to see if the soil capacity – which affects the rating – needs to be corrected. And that would be a statewide review that would only affect a small number of soil types.
But for now, individual farmers will have to file appeals with TERC on a case-by-case basis. Meanwhile, the Council is drafting a letter to send to state officials opposing the impact of the law on land valuation.
Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.