Tax Appeal Tales

Last night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting was interesting – the tax appeals that we had picked to be contentious were not. No one showed up to make their case. But a couple of other folks did show and they had done their homework.

Immediately after the agenda was adopted, District Seven Juror Jody Backus recused himself from voting on items A and B (JP Morgan Chase), G (Village Green Apartments), H (Charleston Square Apartments, and I (Royal Crest Apartments). Asked about the recusal, Backus said it was because of business dealings with the four entities.

The first two appeals from JP Morgan Chase were rejected, the Jury (acting as a Board of Review) voted unanimously to uphold Lincoln Tax Assessor Pam Jones’ figures. Next was an appeal from Joshua Otwell, who wanted his assessment reduced from $106 thousand to $70 thousand. Jones and Otwell had met since the appeal was filed and agreed upon a new number of $92 thousand. The jury voted unanimously to accept the corrected assessment.

Rebecca Webb

Next up was a young lady who made this old tax protester kind of proud. Rebecca Webb said the assessments of her land and home were not in line with other property owners in the area. She had sent letters to the Assessor and the Board of Review making her case. She also distributed several spreadsheets with the tax assessments of the Police Jurors and several of the Assessor’s staff.

Jones rebutted with several sheets of comparables (comps) of area property sales. The most recent comp sales (2009) would seem to uphold her (Jones’) assessment.

However, Webb told LPNO in an interview today that it is not so much any more about the money as it is about being treated with fairness compared to other parish property owners.

After about 20 minutes of discussion from Webb, Jones and the Jurors, the Jury voted to uphold Jones’ assessment by a seven to one vote, with three abstentions. Voting to uphold were Hunter, Bennett, Franklin, Hammons, Backus, Henderson, and Mays. Voting no was Sharyon Mayfield. Abstaining were Glover, Russell and Wyatt. Annie Brown was absent.

Even though the discussion was at times animated, the Jurors all told Webb that they welcomed her presence and said that as a taxpayer was entitled to appeal and should be commended for exercising that right.

Concern About Continuous Reassessment

We were concerned that the Tax Assessor reassessed all the neighborhood after Webb’s appeal.

Asked whether the practice of adjusting assessments between the state mandated four-year intervals was common practice, Jones told LPNO that whenever incorrect data is discovered, interim updates are often done. Tax assessment “is an ongoing process,” Jones said. In this case, Jones said she sent field assessors out to the location to look at the area.

It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after an uppity property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be government retribution to show what can happen if you complain too loudly. Mrs. Jones says it is a legitimate action. We shall take her word for it – this time.

Item E, the North Louisiana Rehabilitation Center’s appeal was rejected unanimously and the Assessor upheld.

Lincoln Family Housing

Next up was Larry Hoss of Lincoln Family Housing, LLC. He is a principal in the company that owns and operates the low/moderate income housing located on Hwy 80 West. After learning from his banker that last year’s tax bill was probably overpaid, he decided to appeal this year’s assessment of $2.2 million and asked that it be reduced to $2 million. He had contacted Tax Assessor Pam Jones and asked for guidelines to help calculate the tax owed. Rather than estimated value, this type of property is assessed on estimated income from rent.

Unable to obtain the necessary guidelines, Hoss said he hired a lawyer to help calculate the taxes. He also submitted his figures to the Louisiana Tax Commission, who would also adjudicate any appeals a taxpayer might file were he not satisfied with the local Board of Review. The Tax Commission showed a value of $1.76 million, well below the Assessor’s number and lower than the number Hoss had suggested in his original appeal. Here are the calculation sheets for the three valuations.

The Jury voted unanimously to uphold Jones’ assessment, as they could only choose between the $2.2 million and $2 million numbers. Hoss had said that since the Tax Commission would likely assess at the lowest number, the local appeal was a formality so that he could go to the next step and let them set the final assessment.

Likely Mrs. Jones is going to lose on this one.

As the other three apartment complexes on the agenda – Village Green, Charleston Square, and Royal Crest – were low/moderate income rentals, and likely would be a similar situation to Lincoln Family, the jury voted to uphold the Assessor. The owners will probably appeal to the Tax Commission. The two compressor equipment company’s appeals were also rejected.

Item five on the agenda was the renewal of an exemption for Weyerhaeuser’s Simsboro Laminated Veneer Mill. Jury attorney Andy Shealy sent a letter asking that the exemption be extended for a year, as the School Board, Assessor and Sheriff had agreed to do so already. The Jury voted unanimously to grant the one year extension.

UPDATE: 6:30 pm – 9/24/09

What we wrote upthread:

It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after an uppity property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be government retribution to show what can happen if you complain too loudly.

What we should have written:

It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after a property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be retribution to show what can happen if government thinks an uppity taxpayer is complaining too loudly about their tax bill.

3 Responses to “Tax Appeal Tales”

  1. Rebecca Webb Says:

    Mr. Abbott, is the “uppity” comment yours or hers?

    If you recall, I stated in the meeting that I first approached Mrs. Jones last year complaining that my assessment was not in line with my neighbors. Why didn’t she raise theirs at that time if her assessments were incorrect? Why wait until I file an appeal? Think about it, Mr. Abbott…..maybe Mrs. Jones realized I had a point and decided to cover her buttocks just in time for the meeting, since she realized just how bad it appeared on paper? However, I bet she didn’t plan on me doing my homework and comparing my property’s assessment with other property owners assessments, including hers. Why not just lower my taxes to match theirs? It would have saved me lots of time and possibly embarrassment for her. By the way, last year I only asked that my lot assessment be changed, not my house (the lot was assessed at $42,542). I believe that I asked prior to the 2008 LPPJ Review Hearing, but after the date to appeal, so she had plenty of time to correct her mistake. Uppity on my part? Absolutely not, how about responsible, informed, tax-paying citizen exercising my legal right to appeal?

    And Mr. Abbott, as I stated in the meeting, Mrs. Jones gave me the comparisons she used on Sept 1 or 3, 2009 to reassess my property. She gave me five addresses. I had the information on those at the meeting (I think I gave you a copy). If I would have known of the others, I could have done my homework (being the uppity property owner I am), and had the stats on those available to you and the LPPJ. The jurors were questioning me on properties that I had no information on. I bet you anything she realized just as I did that the five she gave me did not justify the assessment and had to search for more. Does that make her an “uppity assessor”? Or one that realizes she must cover herself? You decide. I’d like to know what 2009 assessment she advised you she used (the same you stated justified my assessment), did she tell you? I taught you how to look that information up yesterday, check it out. The only property comparison she gave me that was sold in 2009 was 150 Woodhaven, it is assessed at $57.07 per sq ft for the residence and $1.16 for the lot (my numbers are $56.40/$2.56). Do your homework, Mr. Abbott (I promise not to call you uppity!). Did she raise that assessment, just as she did on the comparison she used on 107 Wynnwood (it was $100,498 before August 28, 2009, she increased it and when used it as a comparison at $128,030). Again, I wasn’t aware of all the comparisons she gave the LPPJ. You were in the meeting, you should know that.

    Mr. Abbott, I don’t think you are being fair at all and that’s why you told me you were at the meeting, to ensure that citizens were being treated fairly. The police jurors were very respectful to me and I was thrilled that they spent a lot of time asking me and Mrs. Jones questions. I wish they would’ve had more time to study my spreadsheets, I think those spoke volumes, hopefully, the LA Tax Commission will get to study them in advance. I just wish I would’ve had all the information the LPPJ had, so I could better assist them.

    Yesterday when you called me, you defended Mrs. Joness assessment of my lot stating that different neighborhoods fetch different prices, but you refused to admit that $2.56 a sq ft was excessive. You stated that Mr. Backus, who lives less than 1/2 mile from me should have a different sq ft price because his neighborhood is different from mine. According to Mrs. Jones, the closer to Hwy 167 N, the lower the price because of the road noise (that is how she justified Mr. Cordoro rental property’s extremely low assessment last year, this year she used the excuse that it is rental property and therefore is justifiably assessed lower–Mr. Abbott, there is ONE house between me and Mr. Cordaro! And 14 between Mr. Cordaro’s lot and Mr. Backus’) Cordaro’s lot is assessed at $2.14 sq ft (she raised it from last year) and Backus’ at $.85 sq ft. By the way, I looked up your property. If she will use my house’s price per square foot ($56.40) and my lot’s price per square foot ($2.56); your total assessment would be $242,100! Your property is currently assessed at $.36 per sq ft for the lot and $74.58 per sq ft. for the residence. You are currently assessed at $150,218. Your house is $129,918 and lot at $20,300. Your lot assessment is comparable to the LPPJ members (lucky you).

    By the way, I asked Mrs. Jones for her policy in assessing property, just as Mr. Hoss did over a month ago, she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) produce documentation and only repeated that it was “Fair Market Value”. I only requested that my lot’s assessment be reassessed at $1.53 square foot (which is still a lot more than yours, Mrs. Jones’, Mrs. Bordelon, Mr. Armond, and the LPPJ’s is assessed at). I don’t know what you did prior to your retirement, but I’ve almost always worked for the government; in the military and through the state now; but I bet she has policies, procedures, and laws she has to abide by, just as with all government agencies. But she still refuses to hand them out for whatever reason.

    I’m not sure why she has targeted me, I had never talked to her prior to appealing my assessment last year. I was very courteous to her then, however, I was not treated with the same respect. An attorney was at the clerk’s office last year after I was complaining of my ill treatment and her unfair practices, and he took my assessment to her office and told her that he knew I couldn’t fetch $42,542 for my lot and she told him that she would reduce the lot and add it to my house, however, she never did that. I am not the first person that has accused her of being rude and unfair. As a matter of fact, I haven’t encountered anyone that has stated she was respectful after appealing to her for lower taxes. Maybe you are aware of some, and if you give me their names, I will be glad to speak to them for their opinion regarding the treatment they received. I have talked to three people in that office regarding my taxes, only one was respectful and I will get her name today and will supply that to you.

    Thank you again for your time and attention to this matter. By the way, I guess I can’t blame you for defending her actions, you can’t afford not to!!

  2. Walter Abbott Says:

    The “uppity” comment is mine. And I’m not defending her at all. As I stated in my post, I find it quite alarming that Jones immediately reassessed the adjoining property to yours after you filed your appeal. It smacks of government retaliation against someone who is exercising their right to appeal as you have done. And I heartily applaud you for doing so.

    For the record, I’ve had no dealings with Mrs. Jones ever before, professionally, socially or politically. Tuesday night was the first time I had ever met her.

    If she is indeed unfair in her assessments, it will be uncovered – count on it.

    And thanks for your comments.

  3. Webb Appeals to Tax Commission « Lincoln Parish News Online Says:

    […] that Rebecca Webb of Ruston has appealed her tax assessment to the Louisiana Tax Commission. Last month Webb appeared before the Lincoln Parish Police Jury in its capacity as the Board of […]

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