Property tax opponents rally as House passes bill

The House of Delegates approved one bill aimed at helping ease the burden on taxpayers and introduced another which aims to make it a more comprehensive effort.

HB 2585 clarifies the length of time property owners have to challenge a property tax assessment. Under the bill, the period of time will be eight business days, instead of the current span of five consecutive days. On the heels of the approval of the measure, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, introduced HB 2840, legislation that would define and lessen the burden of proof property owners must meet in their challenge.

The movement on property taxes coincided with a rally promoted by Charleston radio station talk show host Michael Agnello. His 58Live program on 58WCHS has focused on the higher tax issue for the past two months. Agnello and his listeners joined about a dozen lawmakers at Wednesday’s rally.

Armstead said the burden of proof in tax appeals has never been established by the legislature, so the Supreme Court established it as “clear and convincing evidence that an assessment is wrong.”

“That is basically the highest level of proof outside a criminal case,” said Armstead. “This within civil actions is the highest standard.”

Armstead said his bill favors lowering the burden of proof to “preponderance of the evidence.”

“Our taxpayers are fighting an uphill battle to change what they think is an unfair assessment,” said Armstead.

In recent months, lawmakers have been besieged by constituents hit with new property assessments. Many of those have seen massive sweeps in property values and increased tax rates.

“We certainly don’t want to take money away from education or for our counties,” said Republican Delegate Suzette Raines of Kanawha County. “Certainly this bill could be a more comprehensive effort to address this problem for taxpayers.”


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