Members of the OTOC Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Team joined with Pastor Portia Cavitt and Pastor Michael Williams to hold a meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at Clair Memorial United Methodist Church addressing the concerns of northeast Omaha property owners in response to dramatically lowered tax assessments for 2016.
Approximately fifty people attended, including County Commissioners Rodgers and Boyle, Councilman Ben Gray, Assessor Diane Battiato, County Clerk Dan Esch, and Attorney Gary Fisher of Family Housing Advisory Services. Channel 7 interviewed Rev. Cavitt and Rev. Williams in a report that aired at 6:00 pm that day.
Gloria Austerberry of OTOC provided an overview of the process the County followed in establishing the 2016 valuations and the current state of the dispute between Douglas County and the State Tax Equalization Review Committee which ordered Douglas County to reduce valuations in Northeast Omaha by 8th and increase them in Central West Omaha by 7%.
Many people from the floor had tough questions for the elected officials present including one woman who said she bought her home 10 years ago for $60,000 and it was reduced in tax value a few years ago to $47,000 and was now has a 2016 proposed tax value of $27,000 by Douglas County. She asked how this could happen? Douglas County Tax Assessor Battiato said that tax values are simply a reflection of the sales in that come from that area of the City and that the collapse of the housing market in 2008 was still being felt in the Northeast part of the City.
Commissioner Rodgers and County Clerk Esch told people that they can appeal their tax valuations during the month of June if they want to ask for a lower or higher valuationa. Attorney Gary Fischer reminded the audience that tax valuation is not necessarily the actual market value of their and that people should not panic because the County has set their values are less than they had believed. Tax Values are set by a process of mass valuation while the market value of each home is established by what a willing buyer will agree to pay the seller. Many people expressed concern about how the tax values of their main asset, their home, could be so much less than they have been in recent years.
Council Ben Gray noted that the Omaha Vacant and Abandoned Property Registration Ordinance and the Omaha Land Bank which OTOC has fought for are new developments to help restore our neighborhoods. OTOC believes there is much we can do to protect the equity in our individual homes, but we have only begun to explore collective action we can take to improve our neighborhoods.