(Jim Clark) – On Saturday, September 17 the Incline/Crystal Bay Citizens Tribute Committee invited the community to join them in formally thanking the Village League to Save Incline Assets President Maryanne Ingemanson and her board for their nine long years of fighting against Washoe County’s unlawful assessment practices.
The event was held on the lawn at Kern Schumacher’s bucolic, rambling lake-front estate and the Citizens Tribute Committee seemed to have thought of everything. Over 400 residents signed up to honor our local heroes yet there was ample food, excellent wines, no crowding and even bathrooms were available. The Committee, by the way, consists of a number of prominent locals. The most visible members on the day of the event were Louis Weinstein, George & Nancy Croom, Bob Davidson and, of course, Kern Schumacher.
After an hour or so of munching, sipping and socializing, the assembly was called to order. Crystal Bay resident Bruce James was introduced to review the nine-year battle with Washoe County. He said that when he moved here in the 1990s he volunteered to serve on the Washoe County Board of Equalization, the taxpayer property value appeals board. In retrospect, Bruce explained, that should have put him on notice that things weren’t quite right at the county.
He explained that starting about 2003 Washoe County began to employ valuation techniques that only applied to Incline/Crystal Bay properties, and in every case raised taxable values. A complaint was filed and the Village League offered to settle the whole affair for a nominal sum provided that the Washoe County assessor would appraise properties at the Lake using the same methods as in the valley. Nothing doing.
In 2006, The Nevada Supreme Court, for the first time, ruled that appraisal methods used in Incline/Crystal Bay violated the Nevada Constitution which requires that taxes be “uniform and equal.” But the county decided that they would only refund tax over collections to the few who initially appealed to the County Board of Equalization despite the fact that the highest court in the state had ruled that the taxes were unlawful.
In 2010, with approval of the Village League, Bruce James and your columnist bypassed District Attorney Dick Gammick and talked individually with each Washoe commissioner about settlement negotiations. We told them this could be a huge judgment – that we didn’t want to see Washoe County go bankrupt. All agreed to discuss compromise and voted Commissioner Bob Larkin to represent the county commission in negotiations. The result: “they just poked the Village League in the eye once again,” Bruce James told the crowd.
The final victory came in July when the Nevada Supreme Court again affirmed the unconstitutionality of Washoe County’s assessment practices and upheld a trial court decision requiring the county to roll back assessments to 2002 levels and refund over collected taxes.
Bib Davidson then presented beautiful plaques to Village League board members: Dale Akers, Les Barta, Todd Lowe, Wayne Fischer, Chuck Otto and, to the strains of that Caribbean song “Down by the seaside, Maryanne,” to President Maryanne Ingemanson. She then introduced the League’s attorney, Suellen Fulstone.
In a poignant postscript, Chuck Otto lamented that one of their original members, Ted Harris, passed away before the final victory. He recalled that Ted was a dynamo when it came to righting government wrongs and, among other civic contributions, came up with the original idea for the Village League. Chuck speculated that if Ted could speak to us from wherever he rests it would be to say: “We finally got the #$*&%@%!’s.”
Say, there’s a great victory theme.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a member of the Washoe County GOP and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com)