In response to the massive property assessment hikes in Bannock County, a group of frustrated property owners is looking to hold people accountable.
Originally, the group’s effort was to recall the assessor, Sheri Davies. But after the commissioners determined to reduce property values following thousands of appeals, they’re on the chopping board, too.
The Pocatello-Bannock Home Owners Alliance began collecting signatures for the recall of the three county commissioners over the weekend. Claudia Ortega, the founder of the alliance, said they’ve already collected hundreds of signatures to recall the commissioners and thousands to recall the assessor.
Commissioner Ernie Moser said he respects the people’s right to recall public officials but said he feels the commissioners did their best to remedy the situation.
“It’s disappointing, but I can tell you the commissioners want to do the very best they can. They are working very, very hard, and for the rules that we follow, we’re doing a good job,” Moser said.
This comes after the Board of Equalization, which is made up of the three commissioners, gave a blanket 10 percent reduction to people who appealed their property value assessments.
“It’s almost like they just said, ‘Let’s see what will keep these people happy. Maybe if we give them 10 percent, 10 percent sounds good.’ This isn’t an after-Christmas sale,” Ortega said.
Because of the thousands of appeals and only three commissioners, the BOE could only hear around 600 appeals. Those who appealed but didn’t get to meet with commissioners were given a 10 percent reduction.
“I’ll take the blame for this and the responsibility for this, I guess. I felt that because those people appealed, and we didn’t have the time to listen to them, let’s give them a mass 10 percent break,” Moser said.
Moser said he felt obligated to do something so, hopefully, some people wouldn’t feel the need to file with the state.
“I watched them stand over here, and they came in and did everything they could, and I couldn’t fulfill my responsibility,” Moser said.
Anyone who feels their property assessment or the reduction isn’t an accurate reflection of their home’s value can appeal to the State Tax Commission.
The board also gave a 10 percent reduction to every assessment in Downey, and a 5 percent blanket reduction to Lava Hot Springs, McCammon, Chubbuck, Tyhee and non-metropolitan areas south of Pocatello. This applies to everyone, regardless if they appealed their assessments or not.
Another issue people have with this year’s property assessments is that they were delivered 18 days late.
That was because a new software was installed during the most critical time for the assessor’s office, Davies told the Idaho State Journal.
But Ortega wonders why nobody told the public about the delay beforehand, saying she feels the assessor’s office wasn’t transparent.
When asked if he had the chance to do things differently, Moser, who has been in office since January, said he would do better to communicate with the public.
“We’ve learned some things for next year, especially in our office,” Moser said. “We’ll be more involved with the press, we’ll be more involved with the process.”
He also said that the commissioners’ office has nothing to do with sending out the assessments, but the commissioners’ office was told repeatedly that the assessments would go out on a certain date, and then the date would be pushed back again.
“So what happens over there, we can’t go over there and tell her how to run the office and what to do, but when it becomes the BOE and becomes our responsibility, that’s when we tried to listen to as many people as we could,” Moser said.
Petitioners need more than 9,000 signatures for each recall petition in order for this to go on the November ballot. They have until Sept. 16.