Tahoe tax revolters heading back to Nevada Supreme Court
If you go
What: Oral arguments before the Nevada Supreme Court
When: 11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3
Location: Nevada Supreme Court
Directions: East side of Carson Street, between State Capitol and Legislative Building
Learn more: tinyurl.com/nqbzaw2
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Attorneys for the Village League to Save Incline Assets are scheduled to make oral arguments Monday before the Nevada Supreme Court on a case that’s now more than 10 years old.
The 11:30 a.m. hearing in Carson City follows the league’s challenge to a July 2012 ruling from Washoe Court District Court Judge Patrick Flanagan, who agreed with a State Board of Equalization decision that determined some 8,700 Incline/Crystal Bay parcels were assessed unconstitutionally.
Flanagan’s ruling orders the Washoe County assessor to re-evaluate all those properties for the 2003, 2004 and 2005 tax years.
The concern is if that happens, residents may have to pay more taxes, should the assessor value properties higher than they were originally appraised a decade ago, said Incline resident Todd Lowe.
“This is clearly an attempt to reverse the wins that were previously made for Incline residents,” Lowe said.
Lowe is president of the nonprofit Village League, which has represented Incline/Crystal Bay homeowners in their 12-year tax revolt.
This case started when the league — then run by the late Maryanne Ingemanson — filed a lawsuit in 2003, arguing the county assessor used impermissible factors, such as views and proximity to Lake Tahoe, in assessing home values that were higher than like properties in Douglas County.
The district court ruled against the Village League, which appealed to the state Supreme Court. The high court returned the case to district court for a re-hearing.
A subsequent decision from Flanagan in 2010 was also appealed to the Supreme Court, and justices eventually ruled again to return the case, instructing Flanagan to remand the SBOE to equalize all taxes in the state of Nevada.
After several meetings in 2012, the SBOE — which at one point decided to equalize taxes back to original 2002-03 levels, Lowe said — ultimately ruled that all Incline/Crystal Bay properties be reappraised for each of the 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 tax years.
Flanagan’s July 2012 ruling agreed with the SBOE’s decision.
“Once the assessments are completed, the board may then seek additional taxes or refund taxes to the homeowners based upon the new valuation of their property for the years in question,” Flanagan wrote in that ruling.
‘THE RIGHT THING TO DO’
The Village League is challenging both the SBOE and Flanagan rulings, Lowe said, with the ultimate hope the Supreme Court rules once and for all to fix Nevada’s broken taxation system.
“This could impact all Nevadans — imagine a world where the State Board of Equalization, at a whim, can go back to any previous year that you already paid your taxes and issue a decision that orders the counties to reassess your property … and then says you owe more than what you paid,” he said.
Adding to the irony, Lowe said, is the Supreme Court in 2006 and 2008 (referred to as the Bakst and Barta cases, respectively) issued rulings that declared the method of assessment used in 2002 for both cases was unconstitutional.
“What’s frustrating with all this is the Supreme Court has already decided what the right thing to do is … yet, the state board went ahead and turned itself around, which we think is illegal,” he said.
Longtime Village League attorneys Norm Azevedo and Suellen Fulstone will utter arguments Monday on behalf of the league and Incline taxpayers.
Aside from seeking a ruling that overturns the SBOE and court decisions, the Supreme Court also is tasked with ruling if the state board has the legal authority in the first place to order reappraisals.
It’s unclear at what point after Monday’s arguments the high court will issue a ruling.
While related, this case is separate from the 2013 payback by Washoe County of more than $44 million to Incline property owners. Those Supreme Court-ordered refunds were for illegal taxes collected from the 2006-07 tax year to the present.