Property tax battle moving forward

INCLINE VILLAGE - Eighteen property owners who filed a lawsuit to invalidate a county-imposed increase in property bills received a victory last week when District Judge William Maddox denied a motion by the state and county to dismiss the case.

"Unlike the other (class action) lawsuit, we did go through the correct process in challenging the assessments, and the county and state still tried to dismiss it," said Les Barta, one of the 18 residents who filed the lawsuit challenging property tax assessments. "The judge is allowing the case to move forward on one key issue - whether the county assessor followed the regulations in his tax assessments."

Douglas County residents who live in Lake Tahoe are waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit. They face their own county-proposed property tax hike of between 45 percent and 60 percent.

The Washoe County property owners filed the lawsuit after the county raised property tax bills by about 49 percent.

If the judge rules the assessor did not follow correct procedures, Barta explained, all properties in Incline Village and Crystal Bay will have to be reappraised.

"If we win this case, it will be a huge victory because it will set the precedence for all of Incline Village," Barta said.

"If the decision is favorable for the 18 of us, all of Incline Village and Crystal Bay will win, and the assessor will have to follow the law from now on," he said.

In other tax revolt news:

-- The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by Village League Attorney Suellen Fulstone and by attorneys representing the state and county today.

The full Supreme Court will hear the appeal of a ruling made last February by Judge Elliot.

Elliot's order was that any administrative action taken by the Washoe County Board of Equalization regarding property taxes was against the property, not the person, therefore the hearings did not have to be noticed by 21-day certified mail.

-- On Friday, the Nevada Tax Commission will hear the proposed rules and regulations changes to locally assessed property tax regulations. The regulations control the assessment methods that must be used by the appraisers after July 1.

If the revised regulations are adopted, all 17 state counties will be affected.

The Village League has been working with the Department of Taxation and the Tax Commission for almost a year and through 33 meetings to arrive at a consensus.


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