Washoe County appealing in Lake Tahoe property tax fight
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Washoe County has decided to appeal a judge’s ruling that could force the county to refund millions of dollars in excessive taxes to thousands of residential property owners at Lake Tahoe whose property valuations were arrived at illegally more than a decade ago.
The Reno Gazette Journal reports county commissioners recently voted to certify the appeal after Washoe District Judge Kathleen Drakulich concluded in October the valuations used in Incline Village and Crystal Bay between mid-2003 and mid-2006 were arbitrary and violated the state constitution.
She ordered an adjustment of tax rolls for those fiscal years.
Todd Lowe, president of the Village League to Save Incline Assets, says there are 8,000 to 9,000 residential properties in the towns on Tahoe’s north shore. He told the newspaper last week the group is stunned the county would pursue a meritless appeal and subject taxpayers to further litigation costs.
It will be the third time the case has landed at the Nevada Supreme Court, which twice before remanded it the lower courts.
The Village League claimed that the assessment used standards not applied to other county or state properties, including lake view assessments that changed wildly from one property to the next.
“They used what was called drive-by assessments,” Lowe said earlier. “You had neighbors that essentially had the same residential lots with vastly different assessment levels and vastly different taxes.”
The Village League sent a letter to the county last month to try to dissuade it from mounting what it considers to be a costly appeal.
It claims the appeal will likely add $5 million to the millions of dollars of potential refunds when factoring in a projected annual interest of 7.5% on the over payments, the hiring of outside counsel, and a three-year average for appeals based on three published rulings against the county.
Washoe County, meanwhile, responded that it is too early to tell how much the final cost will be to taxpayers from the case. Interest, for example, is based on a wide variety of factors.
“The question related to the cost of outside (counsel) and additional liability based on this decision is not easily identifiable at this time based on a number of factors,” said spokesman Adam Mayberry. “We have no way of estimating how long the appeal will take, or the outcome.”