August 1, 1999
Mr. Paul Easter
Grays Harbor County Assessor
Grays Harbor Courthouse
Dear Mr. Easter,
After a great deal of thought, I want to complain to you about the statements made at the State Board of Tax Appeals hearing July 27. You, Mr. Claunch, and I, having been sworn in, testified in front of Mr. Robert Barnes, Hearing Examiner, State Board of Tax Appeals. During that hearing Mr. Claunch, on the record, made a remark/question concerning how many times I had appealed to the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization. He then answered his question with an answer he knew was low and wrong. I had to give the correct answer. Then he raised a question about how many times I had appeared before the State Board of Tax Appeals.
As an official representative of Grays Harbor County, appearing before a legally convened hearing his conduct was at best outlandish. Those remarks could serve only to intimidate and discredit my appearance. Now I know why friends and neighbors have told me they won't appeal their assessments, they're afraid they will get in trouble with the Assessor's office. Every property owner in the county has the right, without intimidation, to appeal the values set by your department. We do that through the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization. Decisions of the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization can be appealed. Even you have done that. Acting as County Assessor, you appealed a decision granted me by the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization in 1994. In 1998 I chose to appeal a decision of the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization and that was why we were attending the hearing July 27th.
To set the record straight. I have appealed to the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization in 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 (2 times) and 1998. They have found in my favor 4 times. In 1994 you appealed their decision to the State Board of Tax Appeals. This appeal dealt with the value of my Oakville area property after the 1990 flood. You set an improvement value of $135,465 on flood damaged property. The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization set a value of $99,145 and the State Board of Tax Appeals upheld that decision. In 1998 I again approached the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization to challenge your values after the even more devastating 1996 flood. Despite your department's inability to provide flood damaged comparables the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization upheld the assessment. I merely exercised my right to appeal to the State Board of Tax Appeals.
Frankly we don't like using the appeal process. But there are times (at least 4) when the values set by your department are outlandish. We had no choice but to appeal to the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization or the State Board of Tax Appeals.
Grays Harbor County is not King County. Most of us like our open space. Farm land is not development land. Floodplains are for the river. The county knows that homes, like mine, should not be permitted in the floodplain. As long as innocent flood victims are ignored (we've never received assistance from Grays Harbor county in either flood event), as long as flood plain property values are assessed at higher and higher values, there will continue to be a great deal of conflict between property owners and the county. This conflict need not be aggravated by intimidation or by derogatory remarks that infer that the petitioner is a 'complainer' or 'troublemaker'. When or if your home is flooded with over 2 feet of water, when your fences and roads are destroyed, when your personal possessions are lost, and when it requires a 2nd and a 3rd mortgage to attempt to protect your home - perhaps then you will understand the value of the appeal process and the importance of honorable treatment.
cc: Robert Barnes, State Board of Tax Appeals
Bob Beerbower, County Commissioner
Aberdeen Daily World.
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