Straight Talk From Steve: The TERC (Tax Equalization and Review Commission) Bill
December 15, 2022
One of the bills I will introduce in January will affect the way properties get valuated once an appeal has been filed with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. The current process is a mess and always leaves property owners holding the short end of the stick. So, before I reveal my solution, let me first explain what the problems are.
The first problem relates to time. The appeal process takes too much time. Once an appeal is filed with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission, it can take several years for a hearing to get scheduled and to take place. After the hearing takes place, it can take months or even years for the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to make a decision on the case.
The idea for this bill first came to me from Brenda Bickford, a resident of Lincoln, who has appealed the valuation of her home for several years now. When Brenda first came to me, she had unresolved appeals with the Tax Equalization and Review Commission which were more than three years old. In other words, after three years the commissioners still hadn't made up their minds about what the actual value of her home should be. Three years is simply too much time!
The second problem is one of fairness to the taxpayer. Once an assessor raises the value of a person's property and the property owner files an appeal, the property owner is expected to continue paying the property taxes on that newly assessed value while they wait for the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to make up their minds about what the actual value of the property should be. In Brenda's case, this meant that she had to continue paying property taxes on the inflated valuation of her home for the next three years while she waited for the commissioners to make up their minds.
So, how do we fix this problem? New legislation is needed that will discourage the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission from dragging out these appeals for several years, and the new legislation needs to protect property owners from having to pay property taxes on inflated valuations until a decision can be made. It is unfair to a property owner to have to pay more property taxes than what he or she rightfully owes.
Therefore, in January I will submit a bill that will accomplish these two objectives. The bill I will introduce will encourage the commissioners on the Tax Equalization and Review Commission to reach a decision before the property owner receives his or her next tax bill in the mail. Whenever the commissioners fail to reach a decision by the date when the first half of the next year's property taxes become delinquent, the value of the property will get reset to the previous year's valuation and remain at that value until a decision has been reached.
Property taxes in Nebraska continue to be out of control, and it does not help matters when property owners have to pay more money in property taxes than what they rightfully owe. It has been a long-standing tradition in our country that American citizens have a right to a speedy trial, and that right also implies that a decision should be made in a timely fashion.