State Tax Assessors defy the law because they’re under-staffed
State property assessors did not physically visit the buildings they assessed, a state audit found, and the State Department of Assessment and Taxation says it doesn’t plan to inspect the state’s 2.1 million properties in the future either, even though the law requires it:
The Auditor also notes that the Department has 78 fewer assessors in fiscal year 2012 than in fiscal year 2002. In this same 10 year period, there was an addition of 177,348 new properties to be assessed. Although the Department has received 22 additional assessor positions in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, those positions are not sufficient to comply with the physical inspection law. Based on these facts, the Department is actively exploring the cost of a pilot project in one major subdivision to obtain satellite imagery of real properties at a sufficient resolution to replace physical inspection of properties.
SDAT plans to get the law changed by 2015 to legalize satellite “inspections.”
This “we don’t have enough people to comply with the law” claim is a theme in SDAT’s response to the audit, which found the usual software security holes, lack of oversight on contractors, and collections controls.
Only a third of the audits of franchise agreements were done, for instance, because “the Department’s Franchise Tax Unit has had two of its three positions vacant for two years because of retirements and recruitment problems for this highly specialized work unit.”
Homeowners and renters’ tax credits were similarly not audited in a timely manner, but SDAT explains that:
The primary reason that these audits cannot be more timely is because the Tax Credit Programs had four positions abolished in the last Cost Containment. The Tax Credit Programs need additional positions if the Department is to complete the audits the agency designed in a more timely manner. As a result, the Department has requested additional positions for fiscal year 2015 for the Tax Credit Programs.
This is sort of amazing. Assessing taxes to be collected is almost as important as collection itself—as without it, none of the government employees get paid.