POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIKD) - A recent audit by the Idaho State Tax Commission revealed several irregularities in agricultural assessments of Bannock County properties.
According to Bannock County Assessor Sheri Davies, the audit showed many of the county's categories were incorrect, "and they've been incorrect for years and years."
The issue arose when the commission discovered that numerous plots of land which had been zoned as "dry graze" should have been taxed as irrigated ag land.
"When the tax commission did their audit ... they went out and drove to some of these parcels out in the country and we had them categorized as dry graze and there was a pivot, a wheel line, right in the middle of it," Davies explained. "There was more of that that they found than they were comfortable with."
As a result of the error, many landowners were receiving an agricultural exemption that they should not have qualified for.
"That’s a major benefit for farmers and so the values are significantly different between irrigated ag and dry graze."
So why are people seeing the change now? Davies, who took over as assessor last year, said, to her knowledge, the county has never had an in-house ag appraiser. They had used an independent contractor for several years, but that ended in 2014.
Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown believes what we’re seeing now is just an accumulation of changes, all coming together at once.
“And we’re seeing someone new, with a new approach and a new attitude, wanting to change directions and we’re seeing the ramifications of that.”
Last week, the state tax commission met with commissioners to discuss the issue at hand. Brown said that meeting was "not encouraging," but added what he had heard about Davies' meeting with the commission in Boise on Thursday was.
“We’re waiting for the assessor to come across the street and tell us her plan,” he said.
The plan Davies and the tax commission came up with focuses on having an in-house agricultural appraiser who will be trained by the state tax commission.
“And then there’ll be some cross-training so that there’s not just one, but we will have one that is the specialist,” she explained.
"We want to be accurate, that's what it's all about," Davies said. "So, when the state tax commission finds that there's some issues, then we want to address that."