County tax revenue loss grows due to record number of appeals


This year's record number of appeals on property values has pushed the countywide tax revenue loss to an estimated $435 million, and the bleeding isn't over.

As of Feb. 27, the appeals led to reductions in property assessments that caused a roughly $110 million loss in revenue. That compounds the $325 million lost from properties depreciating in the past year.

Officials said the losses are sure to mount. The figures don't contain results from the three latest appeal hearings, including one in which casinos got hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax reductions.

All told, the appeals could knock down revenue by as much as $150 million, bumping the total loss to $475 million, an assistant assessor estimated Friday.

Although lower taxes are welcome news to property owners, the drooping revenue will worsen local governments' shortfalls in the next budget year.

"It's not looking pretty," said Becky Coates, assistant treasurer.

The pain will be spread across almost 80 taxing districts, including the county, the cities, the school district, the library district and in the outlying areas.

It's unknown how much the decline will affect county government, which already faces a shortfall of $200 million.

As the county explores difficult choices such as trimming wages or laying off workers, any further erosion in funding hurts, said Erik Pappa, county spokesman.

"This is the last thing we need," Pappa said. "If people are entitled to reductions, they should get them. If just doesn't help our bottom line."

Assessor Mark Schofield predicted that property values will drop no further next year and might even begin to rebound.

"The experts say we're nearing the bottom, but we still have a whole lot of foreclosures we have to go through," Schofield said Friday. "The caveat is no one predicted this would happen from the beginning."

The county Board of Equalization, which rules on appeals, held its final meeting Friday. The hearings went two weeks beyond the normal schedule because of the record volume.

This year, about 8,300 owners filed appeals with the assessor's office, topping last year's 6,082 appeals. The volumes in both years dwarf the 1,370 appeals in 2008 and the 725 in 2007.

More than 5,000 property owners worked out deals with assessor's staff and didn't have to stand before the board.

Casinos and hotels were among those challenging their property values, and many got steep reductions. For instance, Aliante's was lowered to $45 million from $117 million, and Las Vegas Hilton's was reduced to $120 million from $285 million.

Michele Shafe, assistant assessor, said she has never seen appeals slice so deeply into property values.

So far, the appeals have shaved $11 billion off the county's total taxable values, shrinking them to $16.2 billion from $27.2 billion, Shafe said.

"It's huge," she said.

She noted that the casinos' appeals and others, when counted, will reduce the assessments even more. The revenue loss from the appeals could reach $150 million, she said.

Casino executives convinced the appeals board that the sharp dip in gaming and tourism caused their property values to tumble, said Rocky Steele, assistant assessor.

"It has to do with the economy and the lack of customers and the lack of gaming play," Steele said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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