Ten months after Kevin Jones purchased his Sandy home, Salt Lake County appraised it for taxing purposes at some $63,000 higher than Jones had paid for it.
Last August, Jones filed an appeal with the Salt Lake County Board of Equalization seeking a reduction in the assessed valuation. Last week, five months after the appeal was filed, Jones - who asked that his real name not be used - was still waiting for the county to schedule his formal appeal hearing.Unfortunately, that experience is all too common, and county officials say the board's appeal system must be revamped to move appeals through the process more quickly.
County commissioners, who also sit as the board of equalization and rule on valuation appeals, have told county tax administrators and the county assessor's office to try to resolve some 4,000 remaining 1988 appeals informally, rather than scheduling a formal hearing for each appeal.
The hope is that by phoning appellants with settlement offers of lower valuations, the board can settle some appeals quickly without the need for a more time-consuming formal appeal hearing.
Just how the county will speed up the appeals process in future years will be determined after the board finishes work on the 1988 appeals.
Jones, frustrated and angry because of delays and lack of information about the status of his appeal, last week wrote county commissioners criticizing the board's appeal process as "mismanaged and inefficient."
Commissioners and other county officials have agreed the board's appeal process has grown too cumbersome and must be streamlined.
Appeals are filed during August, the only month when property owners can ask the county to lower assessed valuations. The board of equalization traditionally rules on all appeals by the end of the following March.
But this year, the board was on a schedule that would have had it working on appeals until about the third week in April, said Mike Reed, chief of the county auditor's tax division.
In 1988, the process was clogged by some 16,500 valuation appeals filed in Salt Lake County. Only about half those appeals have been resolved since mid-September when formal appeal hearings began. Another 4,600 or so appeals are currently being processed, leaving roughly 4,000 appeals that have yet to be processed.
Like Jones, who a few days ago finally received the county's notification that his formal appeal hearing has been scheduled, many of those appellants have waited months to receive any word of their appeal.
Officials are blaming the slowdown on the county's practice of setting a formal hearing for each appeal. The county moved toward that system after an audit several years ago reported the assessor's office was lowering too many appellant's valuations by too much.