SALT LAKE CITY -- A local lawmaker's bill giving property owners better options in appealing their property tax assessments is one step closer to reality.
HB 52, sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, passed the House unanimously Thursday and now moves to the Senate for further consideration. The legislation makes changes related to property appraiser licensing requirements and property tax appeals.
"What we are looking for here is an opportunity for taxpayers to have a little larger voice with a tax they are frustrated with," Froerer said of the measure.
He said the bill allows a taxpayer to potentially bring more factors and data into play in dealing with what he dubbed "valuation creep" in the property tax appeal process.
Froerer said under the existing system, a taxpayer is often forced to get a costly property valuation to provide data for a hearing officer to consider. It can cost up to $400 for that process, while a change in the property assessment would result in a smaller savings than the cost.
"They don't feel it's worth their time," Froerer said of the process.
Another option included in the bill is the ability of a county assessor to access new tools in dealing with different kinds of property cases. The Huntsville lawmaker said a hearing officer, who specializes in retail, may not have the proper expertise to deal with commercial appeals or industrial property.
The provision establishes requirements related to county property tax appeal hearing officers and addresses the consideration and weighing of evidence in a property tax appeal.
"Let's open it up, so that the people can be heard," Froerer said of the appeal process.
He noted property taxes are the one tax in which the public has had the least say.
In the 20 minutes of debate on the House floor over the issue, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, wondered if taxpayers will arrive at a better value for their homes because of the bill.
Froerer said it's not the taxpayer or the assessor that will make that determination.
"At the end of the day, it's fully based on the competency of the hearing officer," Froerer said.
A portion of the bill does deal with the competency of the hearing officer, outlining how people from different fields can deal with specialist matters, from industrial to commercial appraisals.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is the Senate sponsor of the bill.