You are a gentleman and a scholar. I figured as much based upon many factors and just needed to hear it from you.
As you say the situation is not, as it turns out, limited to just Weber County and Ogden Valley and Huntsville. It is a State-wide problem and our fight has broadened significantly to identify those who are serving the best interests of powerful Real Estate/Developer lobby's instead of the people. And our mission is to demand change from the present taxation system into an "acquisition value" based taxation system with many other reforms needed.
Some legislators are coming out of the closet, ironically, virtually all self-identifying as proponents of relying on personal greed to make their day. They are the ones who are proposing raised Circuit Breaker legislation, caps on property taxes for those over 62 or 70 with deferred strings attache. And the latest outrageous idea concerns co-opting reverse mortgages. They are actually proposing the State government become a mortgage banker. Deferring taxes over some amount and earning 6% for the State until the old gal/boy passes on. And then reaping the unearned investment account of deferred taxes plus 6%, so that more real estate activity is generated (more commissions) and our children absolutely HAVE to sell in order to pay the taxes.
This and all "these" senior buyout measures are "Dead on Arrival", but serve to demonstrate to the people exactly who they have elected and why. These of course just pass along a bad system and all its inappropriate burdens on to the working people as if they are not already working hard and enough hours. This is an outrageous proposition and simply disgraceful.
You are correct that we have a large fight on our hands, but the battle grounds have shifted into the political arena and there we can all make a difference for our State's future, our children and grandchildren. Hope I can count on you as a "Wing man for Property Tax Reform" and wish you and your present consumer class action endeavors great success.
Thanks from all us in the Town and Valley,
We have discussed your case at some length among the seven attorneys in our law firm. Your case intrigues us, but we have decided to not accept the case.I have sensed your frustration with my timetable. You are a take-charge man of action and you have your own legal theories for the case. I have agreed with you on some and disagreed on others, but I believe you need a lawyer who will pursue the case your way. Any other way will just result in mutual frustration.My decision to decline the case comes with mixed feelings. I would love to challenge the current appraisals, and my sympathies are strong for your neighbors who can't pay these enormous increases. The frustration is widespread this year, and I think we could be successful.As you may know, I have built my legal reputation on large cases. I still like them. In the last three weeks my time has been consumed in writing and filing six legal memoranda in a class action case which will involve thousands of Utahns, and I have been unable to give other matters (including yours) much attention. My heart is with consumers, especially those who are victims of big business and calloused government. I love the Constitution.My cases are almost always on a contingent fee basis where I do not get paid unless I win. I like it best that way, but I have been unable to find a workable way to take your case on that basis. Asking several hundred people to pay into a war chest for legal fees in advance is a nice idea, but the logistics of that inevitably weakens the effort. Your proposal to raise a little more than twenty thousand dollars will not fund the kind of legal work you need. You can find lawyers who will work for that, and you may find a young brilliant lawyer who will suit your needs. More experienced lawyers will know what they are getting into. These cases involve much publicity and are consuming. They involve substantial time just on legal research, analysis and writing, but they go far beyond that into meeting with hundred of clients, fielding a deluge of phone calls and into political action. The best lawyers will refuse to take a case unless they can do their very best work and still pay their office expenses.You suggested we might take this case on a pro-bono (free) basis because of the opportunity to argue at the U. S. Supreme Court. First, this case is almost certain to end in the Utah Supreme Court and I have been there many times. If you file in federal court, the case will be much more complicated and will almost certainly end in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. I have been there enough. Second, I do take pro-bono cases. For reasons I have already mentioned, this is not a case I will take on that basis.We wish you much success in bringing fairness to our tax system. I will not charge you for what work we have done to investigate the issues. You need to save that money for the fight ahead.Regards, Jack Helgesen -- Helgesen Waterfall & Jones Logo*Jack Helgesen*Helgesen Waterfall & Jones, PC849 W. Hill Field Road, Suite 202Layton, Utah 84041 Phone: (801) 544-5306Fax: (801) 546-2929
Utahns take property tax gripes to legislators
By Sheena McFarlandThe Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 09/19/2007 09:06:08 PM MDT
Bert Hulet is tired of hearing about statistics and numbers and standard deviations when it comes to property taxes. For him, it's personal. His father lost everything in the Great Depression. He later recovered enough to buy a farm, but had to give it up in 1939 because he couldn't pay the property and water taxes. Now Hulet sees a similar threat hanging over his retired friends in Bountiful, where household property taxes increased more than 300 percent on the east side of the city. "This is sick, it's got to stop," he said. "I have neighbors who have been in that area 35 to 45 years, and they're going to lose their houses in the next couple of years trying to pay property taxes."
Hulet was one of nearly 30 Utah residents who testified Wednesday before the Legislature's Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee, many shouting about several-thousand dollar increases in property taxes in a single year.
Huntsville resident D-Bell brought a petition with 1,000 signatures of Ogden Valley residents decrying the assessed value increases of houses and land in the area. "We feel we're being destroyed by disparate taxation," he said. "We must act and we must act now. No pussyfooting around."
But legislators are still looking for a solution. Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said he heard unsatisfactory answers from county assessors in response to this year's "perfect storm" for raising taxes and the ire of property owners. He cited school districts that raised property taxes even after the largest increase in school funding in recent history and water districts increasing taxes to their highest limits for unidentified future projects. "We are hearing throughout the whole state concerns with property taxes," Valentine said. "There is not a good relationship between the ability for someone to pay their property taxes and how much property they own."
He has several possible solutions, from deferred payment to a tax rate cap to an averaging of several years of property rates to lessen what he calls the "sticker shock" of recent tax increases.
Committee Senate Chairman Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, sees problems clustering in Davis and Weber counties and other "problem spots" in the state. He would like to see a law requiring any tax hike greater than inflation go to a public vote. "We should let the people decide," he said.
But that doesn't help people this year who face a doubling or tripling of their taxes. And it doesn't ease the anger of those who see such jumps when neighbors across the street see only a small bump in property taxes.
"Enough is enough. If it isn't fair and equitable, it isn't constitutional," said David Piggott of Bountiful. Sen.
Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, sympathized with those in attendance. "The issue here is coming up with a better approach so citizens feel they are being treated fairly," Bramble said. "Everyone hates taxes . . . but if they're not distributed across the population, we all become somewhat rebellious."
Gordon Tyler of Centerville begged the committee to find a lasting solution. "It's up to you if you want to create a history for your kids or grandkids that Utah is [one of the] highest taxed states," Tyler said. "You can pass legislation that is a Band-Aid or legislation that is surgery." firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawmakers Get an Earful of Property Tax Woes
Sep 20, 2007 by Julie Rose
(KCPW News) The good news is property values are up all over Utah. The bad news? Property taxes are going up too. Dozens of disgruntled homeowners shared their property tax woes yesterday at a public hearing on Capitol Hill.
"We build a small wood-frame cabin there in 1977 - it is 1700 square feet," says Alta resident Karen Travis. "I guess the assessors came up and decided to add one-million dollars to all of our values."
Travis will pay more than 10-thousand dollars in property taxes this year, compared to six-thousand last year. Many at the hearing yesterday were senior citizens on fixed incomes, struggling to pay taxes as their home values rise. Some seniors are eligible for tax assistance. But skyrocketing property values have pushed many others, like Keith Thomas, to the brink of disaster.
Thomas is 70 and still working, but when he finally does retire, he says it's unlikely he'll be able to keep his Cottonwood Heights home. He suggested that lawmakers freeze the value of a home at the 65th birthday of the oldest member of the household.
Property taxes are set and collected by cities and counties. State lawmakers only determine the framework by which those taxes are levied. But yesterday, legislators made it clear they are concerned about the increasing burden of property taxes in Utah and will look for ways to fix things from the top.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Lawmakers may head off revolt over property taxes
Counties told to fix assessment woes or Legislature will step in
By Joseph M. DoughertyDeseret Morning News
Published: Sept. 20, 2007 12:07 a.m. MDT
If counties don't fix problems with property-tax assessments, some lawmakers are threatening that the state Legislature will do it for them.
Legislators are preparing bills for the 2008 session that will be designed to provide property-tax relief and change the way taxing entities can approve tax increases.
Property assessed by counties received valuations so high in 2007 that many residents wonder how they're going to stay in their homes, because they now must pay more in property taxes.
More than 100 people packed a public hearing Wednesday to talk about the issues before the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee. About 20 residents from Wasatch Front counties shared property-tax woes and opinions for how to keep property taxes from getting out of control.
Bountiful resident David Piggott, 84, said his tax bill will go up $900 this year and suggested that school districts no longer tax all residents, just those who have children in school.
Karen Travis, of Alta, said her 1,700-square-foot cabin and land cost her $6,376 in taxes last year. This year, her bill is $10,508.
"I beseech you to rebate our taxes back to what we paid last year," Travis said. That would give lawmakers time to change the way taxes are levied, she added.
Committee co-chairman Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said he plans to introduce a bill that would require voter approval for any property-tax increases above the rate of inflation. And if no one sponsors a bill to correct appraisal problems, Niederhauser said, he will.
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, plans to co-sponsor a bill that would create a tax deferral for senior citizens.
Meanwhile, residents of Huntsville, Weber County, have banded together to put their town up for a mock sale as a way of making government leaders take notice.
The yard signs are in, said Huntsville resident Don "D-Bell" Bell. The next step is to string a banner under the "Welcome to Huntsville" sign that says "For Sale: $2.9 billion."
That figure is the total assessed value of the town's homes and land this year, according to the Weber County Assessor's Office, Bell said. (with toungeu in cheek)
But the tongue-in-cheek approach indicates a real problem, he added, and people are packing up to get out of Huntsville, because property taxes will make it too expensive to live there for some residents.
D-Bell, who held a petition with names of 1,000 Ogden Valley residents, said the state needs to require that taxes be based on the price paid for property, not on Multiple Listing Service data that can be out of date.
Thirty-five other states have similar practices, D-Bell said.
And because counties would need to know what price someone paid for a home, Utah should become a disclosure state, meaning that when a home is sold, the purchase price is reported to the state or local government, Bell said.
Officials in Davis County, where property values jumped by 19.5 percent this year, are planning to assess the entire county in 2008, which would keep single areas, such as Bountiful, from seeing huge jumps in tax bills.
Bountiful had not been reappraised in about a decade, said Davis County Assessor James Ivie, and residents saw an average increase of 30.5 percent in property values because properties were finally brought up to market value this year.
Davis County has teamed up with the Davis School District, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and Bountiful city to provide $5.7 million for a one-time tax discount or "equity abatement" to qualifying properties.
Davis County commissioners have also authorized rainy-day fund money to hire additional employees in the Assessor's Office to prepare for valuations in 2008.