Washoe officials defend higher Incline Village tax assessments
INCLINE VILLAGE – A flap over the assessed values of Incline Village homes is a case of residents not understanding the law, according to Deputy District Attorney Blaine Cartledge, who is assigned to represent the assessor’s office in a lawsuit filed in December.
A lawsuit filed by the Village League to Save Incline Asset alleges that the Washoe County assessor used illegal methodology when computing appraisals for homes in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area.
“Taxpayers do not grasp the system, and we’ve struggled with it ourselves,” Cartledge said.
“This is a very complicated system, one of the most complicated in the state. And contrary to what people have been led to believe, the assessor is not out to get anybody.”
Cartledge says the problem comes when a property owner requests his or her property file.
“They receive a computer printout that gives a basic outline on their property using a base value for what houses on average are selling for in their area,” Cartledge said.
“It gets more complicated when property owners want all the comparable sales in their area. The assessor doesn’t use that as a yardstick to determine the value. Everything is done with a mass appraisal,” he said.
Cartledge says that each property in a given area is given a base value with amenities, such as size, view and upgrades added to the equation.
The property is appraised separately as part of a compromise reached in 1981.
“The methodology was adopted by the state over 20 years ago. There is no malfeasance on the part of the assessor, as has been charged. The office is just following the law,” Cartledge said.
He believes property owners are misguided in their attacks on the assessor.
“It’s ironic that property owners are thrilled when they see how much their homes have gone up in value, but don’t like it when the tax also goes up to stay in compliance with the increased appraisal,” Cartledge said.
According to him, the assessor’s methodology for determining the tax, which has been under scrutiny by the Village League in the lawsuit, has been cleared by both the county and the state boards of equalization.
“Both boards have found nothing wrong,” Cartledge said, adding, “While I personally would support a change in the current method used, until it changes, we have to abide by what’s in place now.”
Washoe County Assessor Bob McGowan maintains that he and his office were doing only what was prescribed by law, but he understands why property owners are upset.
“If I had to pay a large increase in my tax, I’d be upset, too,” McGowan said. “I think it’s good that people are concerned and are doing something about it. If the court decides that the law must be changed, then I’ll act accordingly.”
“People are under the misconception that I’m under some pressure to get money for the county, because it’s broke.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that we are trying to be at the lowest end of the spectrum allowed by law, when we do these appraisals.”
McGowan said he hopes the whole issue is finally decided in court to the satisfaction of all concerned. And he has more than just a professional interest in that result.
“People tend to forget, I’m a taxpayer, too,” McGowan said.