Editor?s note: Marion County Appraiser Cindy McGill submitted the following letter in response to letters critical of her job performance that have been published in other county newspapers. References to letters or letter-writers that have not appeared in the Free Press have been deleted from Ms. Magill?s letter with her permission.
Appraiser responds from county records
It is my opinion that the public needs to be informed of the full record from the few letters to the editor that has been published about their experience with the appraiser?s office.
In reviewing the files I will let the facts speak for themselves, which is a part of county records. These records are open to the public and can be viewed during regular office business hours.
In regard to Norma Kline?s letter (Sept. 30 letter), the Klines have had hearings with this office in 2007 and 2009 and have received reductions each time. Mr. Kline is the only one who attended the hearings at the county level; Mrs. Kline did not attend.
For the record, Mrs. Kline lost her appeal at small claims. Furthermore, the hearing officer?s decision stated in part that, ?The county presented documentation to support its increase in value and adopted a 2009 value estimate that is lower than all of the value indicators generated by the computer assisted mass appraisal system.?
This is opposite of what she states my orders to employees were to ?get the values up.?
First, that would be job suicide, especially if I could not support it to the state that oversee the analysis performed by the office.
Second, what benefit would I gain from getting values up?
As far as insinuating that the property owner was being dishonest about their property characteristics is untrue. I was informed by someone in the public that Mr. Kline has an office in the basement of his house and I just informed the hearing officer that this data error was not considered in the valuation conclusion.
As far as employee turnover I will let county employment records speak for themselves. Furthermore, I have had several former employees return to work for me and another who applied to return to work.
In regard to Jerry Seibert (Sept. 23 letter), the county relisted the property in 2008 as mandated by state law. It was discovered that some living area was listed as garage, which when corrected increased his total square footage living area, which in turn increased the value of his residence.
Mr. Seibert questioned the square footage numbers but would not allow us to revisit the property to verify. Also, it was discovered that the 1900 year built home that was being used as a farm operation office was not listed on the appraisal roll.
When Mr. Seibert came in for his hearing it was suggested that he get in contact with Bobbi Strait at planning and zoning to have her do a habitability report and, based on her findings, we could possibly take the old house to a shed.
Bobbi Strait conducted an inspection and the house was taken to a shed. Mr. Seibert was notified of a reduction in value.
In closing, I would like to state for the record that I did not start employment with the county until September 2005 and current staff and I have since worked diligently to get data errors corrected. Staff has been trained when they visit a property that they are to treat the property data collection process as if they were data collecting their own property.
Furthermore, if data errors are found during the hearing process I do not raise the property owners? value because they have exercised their right to have a hearing about their valuation. Any corrections that increase values are reflected in the following year?s valuation process.
If Mr. Smith is paying taxes for his house with correct property characteristics and on all buildings that he owns, then it is only right that Mr. Jones does as well. My main objective in carrying out the duties of the appraiser?s office is that everyone is treated fairly and equitably.
I have an open-door policy and am willing to visit with anyone about their property and property valuation.
Marion County appraiser
Difficult experiences with appraiser
Our experience with the county appraiser parallels others who have asked for hearings on their property value and were treated less than respectfully. The time allotted was spent listening to Ms. McGill yell about what we don?t know and what she knows.
After our being unhappy with the result of our hearing on the local level this past spring, we appealed to the state level. The Marion County appraiser presented her findings to the judge. Included in those comments were intimations that we were being dishonest about the characteristics of our property.
Even though she was reading from her script in a well-modulated voice, she may as well have been yelling when accusations were being made.
We as taxpayers need to be asking questions about what it costs the county every time an employee in her office is fired or pressured to resign. Employees who do appraising, data collecting, and other key functions in the office, are required to attend state-run classes.
I believe there has been somewhere close to a 100 percent turnover in staff in the appraiser?s office over the past four years. Some were long-time employees who were valued by previous appraisers, and others have been hired and fired by her.
If taxpayers are wondering why their homes go up in value each year, it?s on Ms. Magill?s orders to employees to ?get the values up.? She will try to convince you it?s due to sales of comparables to your home, but is it?
It is unfortunate that many taxpayers are fearful of signing the petitions that are circulating because they fear future retribution on the appraiser?s part.
Hopefully, the county commissioners are listening to all forms of communication.
Generosity aids HHS student organization
The Hillsboro High School H-Club would like to thank Hillsboro Ford for its generous support through the free use of its downtown car lot for a club fundraiser during the Arts & Crafts Fair earlier this month.
H-Club raised $575 by providing paid parking for fair visitors. The money will go toward service projects as well purchasing awards to recognize the accomplishments of student athletes at HHS.
Sponsors Scott O?Hare and Dennis Boldt, and the