Homeowners want answers on how properties are assessed

Posted at 6:18 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 19:41:26-05

Over the last several weeks we've brought you stories of dozens of people who've found their property values in Douglas County skyrocketing.

As a result, in some cases, they'll be paying thousands more in taxes. In some cases, even tens of thousands more in taxes.

Many of these property owners we spoke to say they are concerned about how their  property valuations are determined - saying they're having trouble getting explanations as to why.  

The Breelings made the move to Elkhorn about two years ago.
"I have a special needs child and the schooling here in Elkhorn is a standout and meets his needs. It was of the utmost that we moved to this city," said Jshon Breeling, homeowner. 
Now, the family is paying the price in a big way. 
"Taxation with no representation,' said Breeling. 
Breeling says his property valuation is now being assessed at more than 104 percent of his house's purchase price. This is well above the legally mandated 92 to 100 percent range.
It's much higher than his neighbors with similar homes, meaning he's paying more property taxes than people with equal or higher valued properties on the same exact street. 
"I said, 'this house closed 20 days before me, why was their taxes for 2016 a thousand dollars?And why was mine was five thousand,'" said Breeling. 
The battle went straight to the Douglas County Assessor's Office.
"I said, 'does that mean I am getting four thousand back?' I said, 'it's absolutely not fair in the way things have worked out in this neighborhood.' And there was no response, no one can understand why it's that way," said Breeling. 
We called the Douglas County Assessors Office several times and then went directly to their  office to ask them how they are determining these property valuations.
 Douglas County Assessor Diane Battiato was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
"At what point do I get someone to listen? I mean, I'm not going to let this drop," said Breeling. 
We wanted to take a closer look at how property valuations are determined. 
There are three different approaches - cost, sales and income. The income model typically applies to commercial properties. 
The cost approach formula is as follows: replacement cost for new structure - minus depreciation + value of land.
The numbers are plugged into mass appraisal software and then compared to similar sales for adjustments. This is the most commonly used approach. 
The sales model uses a mathematical formula based on sales of 3-5 most similar properties sold in the same area. This is less common.
The assessor equalizes these values by considering similar properties located in district areas.
It's unclear which approach Douglas County uses. We'll be following up with them later this week. 
The Douglas County Board of Equalization is taking up the matter again Tuesday at 9 a.m.