NAVAJO COUNTY — They say you can’t fight city hall.

Maybe. But it turns out you can fight the county assessor – if you do your homework.

When Show Low residents Paul and Linda Bowden got the most recent assessment of their spacious, two-story home on S. Knoll Trail, they got, well, upset. The County Assessor set the value at $491,000 – a good deal more than his neighbor’s house.

The higher value means the Bowden’s property taxes will go up.

So the Bowden’s appealed – first to the county assessor and then to the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, which heard their appeal at its last board meeting.

Bowden compared the square footage of his house to the neighboring house that just sold. He figured the two houses were mostly the same – although he had a bigger lot. Take it all together, and Bowden figured his house was worth about $457,000.

The county assessor took another look, calculated home values based on six other recent sales in the area and offered to lower the appraisal to $483,000.

The Bowdens insisted on their meticulously calculated $457,000.

So the Bowdens brought their case before the board of supervisors. The supervisors listened patiently to long presentations first by Paul Bowden and then by the assessor’s office. The discussion turned on whether to rate the Bowden’s quality of construction as “average plus” or “good,” as well as you can fairly compare the per-square-foot value of a two-story house to a one-story house.

Bowden said the assessor “cherry picked” comparable sales to “skew” the value of his property. “I believe that this is a textbook case where two properties were not assessed equally,” he said.

The discussion went round and about, revealing the mysterious inner workings of the effort to put an absolutely fair value on a home without actually selling it.

Supervisor Steve Williams, whose district includes Show Low, summed up the case.

“The assessor’s office has trained appraisers. They understand the standards, they understand the statutes. In some respects, I feel a little unqualified to question that. However, we have a legal obligation to evaluate what’s been presented. What I heard Mr. Bowden say — that we ought to just use the two-story comps or the neighbor’s house. That makes sense to me. I think it’s a tough call, but based on what was presented. It feels weird to me to question the appraisers who are trained legally …”

County Assessor Cammy Darris interjected, “You need to look at what was presented and not what (the appraiser’s) training was.”

“Mr. Bowden’s case makes a lot of sense to me,” said Williams.

“Then that’s where you need to go,” said Darris.

So that’s exactly what the supervisors did, voting unanimously to accept the Bowden’s suggested value for their property.

“Do you know what your property tax is? Do you know how much this saves you?” asked Supervisor Williams at one point.

“No. Not actually,” said Mr. Bowden.

Guess it was the principle of the thing.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

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