Douglas County Assessor to submit property valuations after deadline extension

Posted at 3:33 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-03 20:13:35-04

Those sky high property valuations that have been stirring controversy for months are finally hitting the desks of state officials in Lincoln. 

Douglas County Assessor Diane Battiato was granted a 10 day extension for extra time needed to account for adjustments after more than 4,700 tax payers complained about their valuations. 

The much-talked-about March 25th deadline for County Assessor Diane Battiato to submit Douglas County valuations has come and gone. 

"It didn't surprise me actually because the valuations are so erratic," says Douglas County Commissioner Mike Boyle.

The deadline extension caught some Board of Equalization members off guard - some saying they were kept in the dark. 

"Mary Ann Borgeson, our chair person, commented that she had not been advised and you know, it was just a lack of communication," said Douglas County Commissioner P.J. Morgan. "It would have been good to have the Assessor's Office at least advise us." 

Commissioner Boyle says he found out the news from media reports.

And it's not just how the Board of Equalization found out about the extension but the absence of both Battiato and Chief Deputy Jack Baines that's drawing some scrutiny. 

Commissioner Boyle says Baines has been out of the office and working from Kansas due to personal reasons - meanwhile Battiato was on vacation in Hawaii. 

"Well that's her personal decision but I just really can't imagine scheduling a trip in the middle - even if last January you say, well I'm going to take a vacation, and you look at the calendar and see it's in the middle of valuation procedure," said Boyle."I just found it awkward and ill-timed." 

Looking ahead - Commissioner Boyle says the next biggest challenge for the Board of Equalization will be applying a mill levy  and equalizing taxes for property owners. 

"These lower valuations and higher valuations have to come into synch otherwise the mill levy isn't fair, said Boyle. 

Valuation notices are expected to be mailed out to Douglas County property owners by June first, allowing tax payers to formally protest valuations in June. 

It's unclear if or how those dates will be affected by the deadline extension. 

It's just the latest development adding to the already strained relationship between the Assessor's Office and Board of Equalization. 

Commissioner Mike Boyle has been vocal at BOE meetings about the possibility of suing Battiato under the premise of mandamus action, which would "force an elected official to do the job they are elected to do." 

He says Battiato has already been sued under this premise and is represented by the county attorney, which throws a wrench in the plan to pursue litigation against her. 

"Well, if we wanted to sue her on the same basis, the County Attorney couldn't represent us because he already represents her on that lawsuit so we'd have to pay a hundred thousand dollars or so to a private attorney to sue her and then have the county attorney defend her," said Boyle. "It was just compounding insanity so we'll have to let it go."

We reached out to the Douglas County Assessor's Office for comment, they did not return the request for an interview today.