The Douglas County Board shaved nearly a million dollars off the valuation of a Fairacres house, rolled back a hike for a suburban Omaha neighborhood pool and took some of the bite out of a big increase for Cascio’s Steakhouse on Tuesday.
The occasion was the board’s setting of valuations for tax purposes on all property tax protests. Taxpayers had filed 3,169 such protests on 2018 values that were set by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office. They were reviewed by “referees” working for the county board.
The board voted to uphold the referees’ recommendations on all but a handful of the homes, businesses and other real estate they considered Tuesday. But they changed a few, and debated a couple more then left them the same, during haggling that led board member Mike Boyle to quip, “I feel like I’m on ‘The Price is Right.’ ”
In two instances, the board lowered valuations at requests of taxpayers who petitioned them in person Tuesday. One was a 10,000-square-foot house owned by James and Betty Quinn at 6300 Dodge St. The valuation had been raised last year from $1.5 million to $2.6 million.
Sean T. Mullen, an attorney for the owner, said that was too much of an increase. He said it would result in an increased tax burden of more than $20,000 for the elderly owner who’s trying to do everything right. He said a private appraiser had estimated the value at $1.75 million. He said the home was built in 1907 and needs renovations.
Board member P.J. Morgan said Omaha’s a hot market for $200,000 homes, but not many $2.5 million houses sell here. And most of those are farther west and newer than the one in question, Morgan said.
Boyle made a motion to set the valuation at $1.75 million. The board voted 4-2 to approve it. Morgan, Marc Kraft and Clare Duda, who usually opposes such motions, joined Boyle in voting yes. Jim Cavanaugh and Chris Rodgers, who generally supports the referees’ recommendations, voted no.
“That was a reasonable result,” Mullen said. “The commissioners did the right thing.”
The board also reduced an increase proposed for the Stratford Park Homeowners Association neighborhood swimming pool in suburban Bennington.
The Assessor’s Office had raised the valuation for the pool, at 8504 N. 170th St., from $54,800 in 2015 to $172,500 in 2017. Aaron Luneke, treasurer of the homeowners association, told the board that the swimming pool at The Ridges was bigger than Stratford Park’s, but had gone down in value over the past three years and is valued for tax purposes at $33,400.
Boyle suggested setting the valuation at the amount Luneke suggested, about $25,000. Duda disagreed.
“Is there something else we can do to make it seem better?” Boyle asked. Duda demurred, expressing discomfort with setting valuations in such a manner. But Cavanaugh found the right price. He suggested $54,800. The board approved it 4-1. Rodgers voted no. Morgan abstained because his company manages Stratford Park.
The board went along with Kraft’s request from a constituent to soften the valuation hike of a west Omaha optical laboratory. They rejected Boyle’s request from a constituent to lower the valuation of a home in the Mary Our Queen neighborhood.
But Boyle got his wish to trim an increase for Cascio’s Steakhouse at 1620 S. 10th St., although it took some haggling. The Assessor’s Office had raised the valuation from $321,600 to $889,100. Boyle proposed returning it to its previous valuation.
“The increase of 176 percent is inappropriate and unfair,” he said.
Morgan, whose company is doing some redevelopment south of downtown, said he isn’t sure that the assessor’s valuation was inaccurate.
“But I don’t like to see properties get the increases of 200 to 300 percent,” Morgan said. He suggested a 50 percent increase, to $476,000. The board agreed, voting 5-1 to approve that, with Duda voting no.