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Former employee says Douglas County Assessor knew about property valuation hikes ahead of time

Posted at 6:12 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 19:12:25-05

 

New claims are surfacing that the Douglas County Assessor's Office knew about significant hikes coming in property values - in 2015.
     
A former employee says he urged County Assessor Diane Battiato - a few times - to warn homeowners about the impending hikes.
 
Former Assistant Deputy of Operations/Assessment Kris Pierce says he arrived to work on Monday, February 13th to find his desk cleared and his position cut. 
 
"We knew, as early as June 2015 that there were issues with property valuations but we didn't have the time or resources to address them for 2016 and they were going to balloon in 2017," said Former Assistant Deputy of Operations/Assessment. 
 
Pierce says the County Assessor's Office knew about valuation hikes for years, adding he urged County Assessor Diane Battiato to take action.
 
"In 2016, myself and others had numerous conversations with Ms. Battiato regarding the increased values projected for 2017," said Pierce. "She continued to show an unwillingness to get ahead of the valuations by seeking community input or notifying the county board."
 
Now, Pierce is without a job. Battiato says his position eliminated for budgetary reasons. The catch - cutting Pierce's position saves about $40,000 dollars this fiscal year out of $5.1 million dollar budget.
 
"It's my job to advocate on behalf of the people we serve. In response, the assistant deputy of operations and assessment position was eliminated," said Pierce.
 
Battiato counters the office was unaware of the issues before December and says Pierce was never part of any appraisal discussions. 
 
"As I said, the crystal ball is not there for values. Two years ago we had no idea that we were going to increase market trends. We had no idea sales were going to increase in value, said Battiato. 
 
Battiato stands behind her plan of action to deal with unhappy taxpayers.
 
"I want to reiterate these are all preliminary values. So one of the things you don't want to do in preliminary values in the situation is alert the public excessively so that everybody is up in arms before we have the process to go through preliminary values," said Battiato. 
 
Pierce says he doesn't believe his layoff was politically motivated. He was told it was in response to overtime costs racked up by an estimated 4,500 preliminary meetings with concerned homeowners.
 
Assistant Deputy of Operations/Assessmen position still exists but will remain vacant and there are no plans to fill the spot. 
Pierce is on administrative leave through march third. 
 
 

 

Former Assistant Deputy of Operations/Assessment Kris Pierce