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County authorizes appeal of ongoing challenges to Tahoe-area property values


Incline Village. Image: IVGID.

Washoe County plans to file an appeal to a district court’s decision regarding residential property valuations in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area and to consider retaining outside attorneys to handle the matter.

County commissioners, who expect legal fees to be more than $100,000, authorized the appeal on Tuesday to the Nevada Supreme Court and for the district attorney to engage special counsel due to the case’s magnitude and 16-year history.

The Second Judicial District Court order issued last month potentially applies to thousands of residential parcels at Lake Tahoe. If followed, it would cut off some of the most significant growth in property values and the corresponding tax assessments over many years, according to Washoe County. The order would reset the property tax value to a year that preceded much of that growth.

“In the past, the calculations of those values plus interest has taken the Washoe County Treasurer years to complete. It must be done by hand for each parcel,” a report to commissioners states. “The treasurer estimates the refunds could total tens of millions of dollars. The treasurer must also determine what proportion of the refunds would come from the other taxing entities.”

Such entities include the Incline Village General Improvement District, Washoe County School District, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and state.

Bob Lucey

Commissioner Bob Lucey said it would be unwise to forgo an appeal.

“There are multiple parties involved in this and I think this is something we need to have greater discussion about,” Lucey said. “Whether the law is right or wrong with the issue, some of the specifics that are in the judgement are challenging at best. A year to repay taxpayers is unrealistic.”

The series of challenges to property tax assessments has been ongoing since 2003, when the constitutionality of various methodologies, such as views of Lake Tahoe, were questioned. Taxpayers have since appealed the case’s dismissal multiple times.

The case, which is titled Village League to Save Incline Assets vs. State Board of Equalization, also alleges differences between the assessed valuation of Tahoe properties in Washoe County and Tahoe properties in other counties. Other defendants in the case besides Washoe County were the Nevada Tax Commission and Nevada Department of Taxation.

Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said filing an appeal would be “throwing good money after bad,” and cast the lone dissenting vote.

The deadline to file an appeal is Nov. 21.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.