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home : latest news : latest news February 5, 2016

4/10/2013 8:22:00 AM
Assessor dismissed from grazing value lawsuit
Joanna Dodder Nellans
Special to the Review

Arizona Tax Court Judge Dean Fink has dismissed Yavapai County Assessor Pam Pearsall from a property tax valuation appeal filed by about three dozen prominent ranching families.

"Going forward, this lawsuit will be handled as a typical valuation appeal," Pearsall's office said in a news release.

The only proper parties in a property tax valuation appeal are counties and taxpayers, the county's attorney Roberta Livesay explained.

The lawsuit was filed back in late 2011 against Pearsall, Yavapai County and the Arizona Department of Revenue because Pearsall in February 2011 raised the full cash value of grazing land from $7.56 per acre in the 2011 taxable year to $25 per acre in 2012. State law requires assessors to base grazing land value on actual income.

The ranching families filed an amended appeal in December 2012. They own approximately 430,000 acres of the approximately 750,000 private ag acres in the county.

The county had used the $7.56/acre value since 1987, according to documents filed in the lawsuit.

Pearsall based her value on an Arizona Department of Revenue analysis of only 58,000 acres of grazing land rentals, the lawsuit charged.

The Arizona Cattle Growers Association, which joined the lawsuit, later commissioned a more comprehensive study of the average value of grazing land and concluded it was only $3.54/acre, the lawsuit states. That study looked at 650,000 private grazing acres and more than four million public acres, the association stated.

The Assessor's Office told The Daily Courier back in December 2011 that it planned to conduct its own study of ag values. Pearsall said this week that the study cannot be released to the public at this time because of the lawsuit. Livesay said it has not yet been filed in Tax Court in Phoenix. Case filings are not available online.

The county's Board of Equalization hearing officer has already upheld appeals of Pearsall's value increase.

The list of plaintiffs reads like a who's who of Yavapai County ranching families, including Fain, Groseta, Hays, Maughn, Kieckhefer, James, Teskey, McCraine and Denton. Ranches include Yavapai, Orme and Inscription Canyon.

The plaintiffs' attorney Paul Mooney did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Back in 2011, Mooney said the case is the largest number of acres involved in any property tax lawsuit he's ever seen.

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