State needs to be fair to landowners

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It’s just the latest example of how common sense is not always readily apparent in bureaucratic decisions that affect the lives of everyday Americans.

Property owners on Dickey Lake in Lincoln County reached out to the press for answers as to why nearly identical lakefront parcels were being assessed by the state Department of Revenue at widely divergent rates.

When Inter Lake reporter Patrick Reilly looked into the matter, he found out that the reason one lot might be assessed at a value of $200,000 while a comparable lot was assessed at nearly $500,000 was because they were classified in different “Fronting Categories.”

Now, don’t ask us what “Fronting Categories” are because we don’t exactly know, except to report that you don’t want your property to wind up in Fronting Category 2 unless you want your taxes to go way up.

Revenue Department officials explained to us that the categories are not defined by statute, but are instead “user defined” by the department under vague, if not inexplicable, rules.

Under these rules, property owners are experiencing wild swings in the valuation of their homes, potentially resulting in some cases of landowners on fixed incomes finding themselves unable to pay their tax bills.

It was just that kind of inequity that led the Legislature to order assessments to be made every two years instead of every six years, but in this case the result doesn’t appear to be fair to everyone.

We would hope that the Department of Revenue, and Director Mike Kadas, will examine the evidence at Dickey Lake and try to find a way to restore common sense to the system.

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