Interested in being sure all property is taxed fairly? Okanogan County is seeking one more member for the Board of Equalization, which adjusts and equalizes property valuations calculated by the county assessor.
Taxable property includes both real estate — homes, commercial property, land — and taxable personal property such as machinery, business and farm equipment, and store fixtures.
Taxpayers have the right to appeal these property assessments. The board is tasked with determining whether the assessed values are correct, said Okanogan County Assessor Larry Gilman. In the past five years, the county has received fewer than 40 appeals annually, he said.
The board is not involved in the appraisal process and is autonomous from the assessor, according to Laleña Johns, clerk of the Okanogan County board of commissioners.
Appeals are mini-court cases, where the assessor’s office and property owner present documentation. Board members have the option of reviewing materials in advance or at the hearing, and occasionally visit a property, but that isn’t required, said Gilman.
Most adjustments are for individual parcels, but in rare instances the board “equalizes” the value of a group of parcels, generally because of a severe economic downturn or an event like a landslide, said Gilman.
The board also hears appeals when a property is removed from an open space classification such as for timber, agriculture or open-open.
New notices of valuation are sent out May 31. By law, the board meets on July 15 (or the closest day, if it falls on a weekend) to organize the board and appoint a chair.
The board typically handles six or seven appeals a day. In 2018, they met half-a-dozen times over three weeks, generally on Wednesdays and Thursday, to hear the appeals, said Gilman. Board members receive a $50 stipend for every meeting, plus mileage reimbursement at 50 cents per mile. Their work is completed by the end of September, according to Johns.
The board has three members, each of whom serves a three-year term. New members must attend a certification training provided by the state Department of Revenue within one year of appointment. The trainings are usually scheduled in June in Wenatchee or Spokane.
The Okanogan County commissioners appoint the board members and seek representation from across the county. They are looking for a member from the Omak, Okanogan or Brewster area, but will consider applicants from other areas, including the Methow Valley, said Johns. No special experience is necessary, but it’s helpful to have some basic knowledge of how the county works and where its funding comes from, she said.
Prospective applicants should submit a letter of interest to Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in person at the commissioners’ office in Okanogan. Call Johns at (509) 422-7100 for more information.