Box Butte County Assessor Michelle Robinson has filed an appeal with the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission in Lincoln concerning nine commercial property valuation reductions granted by the Box Butte County Board acting in its role as the Box Butte County Board of Equalization.
“After reviewing the litigation that was filed against Box Butte County it is our intention to defend our actions,” said County Commissioner Chairman Doug Hashman.
The board voted 3-0 to not follow Robinson’s recommendation to make no changes to the value of the taxes of the nine commercial properties protested during the tax protest hearings held in July of this year. Out of the 202 protests filed the Board voted to lower 119, raise one and make no changes to the other 82.
“I did a commercial reappraisal for Alliance for 2019 and my assessment action had been called into question by their actions as the Board of Equalization,” Robinson said. “What I had done for Alliance commercial (property) was to value (it) using the income approach and treated every commercial property in Alliance the same as far as applications of that process. So I believe that the Board’s actions were arbitrary and unreasonable creating inequality.”
“She did not agree with our decision so now she's suing us,” said Hashman. “We're defending our decisions and fighting for the property owner at this point.”
“There's a statutory procedure where the assessor can appeal a determination of the Board of Equalization,” said County Attorney Terry Curtiss. “Michelle is saying that the decision of the Board fits within the statutory province for being appealed; whether that's arbitrary, capricious or not supported by the evidence. Obviously the commissioners disagree.”
During Monday’s regular Commissioners meeting, County Clerk Judy Messersmith placed herself on the agenda regarding the TERC appeals. She wanted clarification from the Board as to how she should answer questions that the commercial property owners had directed to her office.
Curtiss instructed her to direct all questions regarding legal matters to his office.
Messersmith also wanted to know how the Board intended to pay for the fees generated from the legal process.
“Our budget is very tight so I wanted to know how the County was going to fund this,” Messersmith said.
A little over 10 years ago Robinson the Boards decision at TERC and it generated a hefty bill.
“It creates the need for a special county attorney to represent her (Robinson),” Curtiss said. “There’s always an expense for litigation before TERC because they sit in Lincoln. So the county will be paying for Michelle’s travel and her attorney to challenge a ruling of the Board of Equalization plus they will have to pay for the expenses of my travel to attend the hearing. Then TERC will make a decision about whether the board of equalization was supported by the evidence and correct or if Michelle’s contention is correct that it was not.”
Along with the nine appeals that Robinson is taking to TERC, two other property owners have filed an appeal also.
TERC will notify those that appealed as to when the hearing dates will be set. Hearings can be set for as much as a year or more from the filing date.