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Tax-protest window opens

By Paul Goodsell

« Metro/Region

If you think you're paying more than your share of property taxes, now's the time to act.

Across Nebraska, county boards of equalization opened for business Wednesday. For the next month, property owners will have a chance to appeal their property valuations as inaccurate or unfair.

Successful protests could save owners hundreds of dollars — or even more —on next year's tax bills, depending on the size of the valuation cut.

“This is an important opportunity if people believe their valuation is inaccurate,” said Rick Kubat, a Douglas County official who oversees the County Board of Equalization.

The deadline for filing protests is June 30. You can protest even if your valuation remained the same as the previous year or has been reduced.

About 6,000 property owners in Douglas and Sarpy Counties protested their valuations in each of the past two years. The majority were residential homeowners, but commercial and industrial property accounted for the bulk of the taxable value that was challenged.

More than half of the protests resulted in a valuation cut.

County commissioners hear protests in many counties. But in some larger counties, including Douglas and Sarpy, real estate professionals are hired as referees to hear cases and make recommendations. While county commissioners make the final decisions, they generally defer to the referees' opinions.

In Douglas County, about 20 referees have been lined up to review valuation protests and conduct inspections. They will be paid at least $50 an hour, with higher payments going to referees who handle commercial valuation protests or the three referee coordinators who oversee the work of other referees.

In all, Douglas County expects to spend about $250,000 on its Board of Equalization, mainly in referee costs but also on additional clerical help. Actual costs will depend on the volume of appeals,

“It's extremely difficult to predict,” Kubat said.