County treasurer offers perspective on MLIRD assessment billing

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Darryl Pheasant

Misleading information has created a false narrative regarding the Moses Lake Irrigation & Rehabilitation District (MLIRD) 2018 assessment billing. In prior years, the MLIRD sent the assessor a rate. The assessor applied that rate to land and improvement values and created the assessment. This process can only be done by the assessor. The treasurer’s function is to bill the taxpayer. For the last few years, the MLIRD produced an actual assessment roll for treasurer as required by state law. This required formality did not change the process of creating the assessment. The assessor continued to use the district provided rate applied to land and improvement values to create yearly assessments.

Last September, the district started the public process of creating the assessment roll with 2017 values and information acquired from the county’s GIS department. The treasurer’s office provided 2018 values to the district on October 18 though final 2018 values were not yet available. This 2018 data was not used.

On Jan. 10, the MLIRD board sent a letter to the assessor requesting a 75 cent rate based on the 2018 total value. On Jan. 11, the district presented the treasurer’s office their assessment roll still using 2017 values at 75 cents. Per our interlocal agreement, the board gives the roll to the treasurer for review and corrections, the updated roll is sent back for board approval who then returns the finalized roll to the treasurer, with deadline of Jan. 15. Two business days between Jan. 11 initial submission and Jan. 15 deadline was inadequate to complete the correction process.

After those two conflicting requests were sent, the assessor informed the MLIRD that she would not comply with the request to include improvement values for calculating the 2018 assessments. The use of land and improvement values had been a concern of mine for many years.

From January to March, the district continued to insist 2018 total values be used while the assessor agreed to land value only. The yearly tax statements were being delayed waiting for resolution of this impasse. The treasurer’s office repeatedly raised concerns that time restraints could require the MLIRD assessments be billed separately. The delay of the yearly tax statements harmed both taxpayers and taxing districts.

On March 13, the MLIRD directed the treasurer to bill the amounts from the roll using 2017 values as presented to the treasurer. That same day, the MLIRD filed suit against the treasurer to require the billing of their assessments. The software to enter from that roll required the assessor’s office to manually import override records, which could not be done in the time available. The 2018 tax statements had to be sent out without the MLIRD assessment.

This late request to use the assessment roll with 2017 values created other issues. To protect the county, these issues had to be resolved before the mailing of MLIRD assessment bills. In accordance with the late May mediation agreement, the treasurer sent tax statements for 2018 MLIRD assessment. Since the 2018 original bills had already been mailed, a secondary treasurer’s system for miscellaneous billings had to be modified. These modifications, completed early August, allowed for the creation of accounts, online payments and the payment receipting for the 2018 MLIRD assessments.

In summary, this year’s statements had to mailed without the MLIRD assessments because decisions were made too late for the Assessor to input the assessments. The Treasurer’s office was perceived to be the source of the problems. The Treasurer’s Office regrets the inconvenience for our taxpayers, but the situation was not of our making.

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