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Panel reviews Bevin appeal of higher tax value for his home

July 23, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Round two of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s dispute over the tax value of his home in a high-end Louisville suburb went before an appeals board Monday, as an appraiser defended his review of the property against arguments that his work led to an “overinflated” valuation.

The Jefferson County Board of Assessment Appeals heard comments from attorneys and real estate appraisers, reviewed property maps and pored over documents in a meeting that lasted more than three hours. The panel will reconvene Friday for more testimony in the case.

The Republican governor is appealing the $2.9 million value placed on his Anchorage home and surrounding 10 acres by the Jefferson County property valuation administrator’s office. The value set by an outside appraiser for the PVA is $1.3 million higher than a company owned by Bevin paid for the property in March 2017. And it’s more than $1.5 million higher than Bevin’s own appraiser has said the property is worth.

It’s the second straight year that Bevin has been embroiled in a dispute with the Jefferson County PVA office. The case stirred questions last year about whether Bevin got a sweetheart deal when he bought the home from friend and political donor Neil Ramsey, whom Bevin appointed to the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems. Last year, the governor won his case claiming that his home was overvalued.

Bevin’s attorney, Mark Sommer, told the three-member appeals board on Monday that the new and much higher assessment of the home and property was politically motivated. The local PVA is a Democrat.

“We believe that the assessment is invalid, we believe the assessment is arbitrary, we believe the assessment is grossly overinflated,” he said.

Assistant County Attorney Matthew Golden, representing the PVA office, said Sommer’s arguments were a “red herring.”

Otto Spence, the appraiser retained by the local PVA, told the board that the PVA wanted an appraisal of the Bevin property that showed market value of the property “excluding any influences of politics. And that’s what I performed.”

Spence said he stood by his review: “I’ve done my homework. I’ve dug my well, and I’ll stand in it.”

Spence appraised Bevin’s property as being worth between $2.9 million and $3.5 million. Taking the low end of Spence’s range, the PVA this spring set $2.9 million as the value of the governor’s home for property tax purposes in 2018.

In his appeal, Bevin argues that the $1.39 million value set by his own appraiser should stand.

Spence has questioned the process used by Bevin’s appraiser John May in reaching that value.

Sommer’s case on Monday included testimony from another real estate appraiser, Mark Mitchell, who said Spence’s review was flawed.

Golden noted that Bevin’s home has undergone improvements that warranted the higher valuation. Sommer countered that none of the improvements warranted the higher value and defended the value set by the governor’s appraiser.

“We believe that forms the most and best indicator of fair market value” for the property at the start of 2018, Sommer said afterward.

Asked by a reporter how much more Bevin would pay in property taxes if the higher value is upheld, Sommer responded: “I’ve not studied that issue.” But he said the amount would be “nowhere near” what the county has spent to defend the higher value for Bevin’s property.

Attorneys for the PVA’s office are expected to present their case to the appeals board on Friday. They declined comment after Monday’s hearing.

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