Anchor Point, Kasilof to have field assessments this year

Borough assessors will be scoping out properties in the Anchor Point, Deep Creek, Ninilchik, Clam Gulch and Kasilof areas this year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assessing Departmentrotates field canvassing assessments around the peninsula on a regular basis, checking on major changes affecting property value, like the addition of a garage or shed. Last year, they canvassed Homer, Funny River and all the islands in the Kenai River.

The department is supposed to stick to a five-year reassessment schedule, per an assembly resolution in 2003. However, that’s been a struggle, said Borough Assessor Tom Anderson in a budget presentation to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on May 1.

“At this point in time, I think it’s not realistic,” he said. “As long as I’ve been here in this job, we’ve never come close to a five-year reassessment cycle. But we are getting more efficient year after year. We have made some progress … we’re closing in on six years.”

There are more parcels in the borough every year as large parcels are subdivided and sold, each requiring an assessment. The assessing department staff reevaluates property values each year and adjusts taxes for property owners’ tax bills annually, but the canvassing visits are supposed to be done regularly to catch major changes.

To save time, the department has been looking at using new technology to speed up data entry and processing. Right now, the appraisers fill out paperwork about the properties and bring it back to data entry clerks, who process the information and upload it electronically. The appraiser reviews the information to make sure it’s correct before finalizing it, but with so many steps, there is a chance for errors to occur, Anderson said.

“Basically, we’re trying to find an application we can use on the iPad tablets that will allow us to collect data in the field electronically on the tablet,” he said.

Finding a technological solution would save time and allow for better quality control, he said. The appraisers would still have to visit properties, but it would allow them to avoid doing everything on paper, he said.

The assessing department also had to deal with some upheaval this year with people challenging property assessments in Homer. After tax bills arrived March 1, hundreds of people in the Homer area appealed their assessments, saying the borough had overvalued many properties. The Board of Equalization, the citizen board that arbitrates property value disputes, is still resolving some of the appeals and currently plans to meet June 12–16 in Homer.

Anderson said the only thing that changed in the assessing department’s formula was a slight increase in the percentage of value accounted for, from 95 percent to 98 percent. That’s not enough to account for some of the jumps that people saw on their properties, but many didn’t see massive increases, he said. Many did, but others saw a decrease and others stayed the same, he said.

Borough Mayor Mike Navarre traveled to Homer in late April to address concerns about the assessments and put some blame on Alaska’s law as a nondisclosure state. State law does not require property sale price to be reported, so the borough assessing department does not have automatic access to comprehensive information about the real estate market to evaluate properties. Realtors have access to that information, but voluntarily disclose it to either individuals or the borough.

During the assembly’s budget hearing, Navarre said the assessments could be more accurate if the state were full-disclosure.

“If all of the sales data was reported, it would be much, much easier for us to sort of calibrate the models and make adjustments, but that’s not the case,” he said. “We’re basing on sales data that is sketchy, I would say, at best.”

The assessing department does send out surveys about property sales, but only a portion of them are returned, Anderson said.

Another place the non-disclosure law impacted was the land purchases in Nikiski for the state’s planned Alaska LNG Project. Since 2014, negotiators have been working to purchase approximately 800 acres near the bluff in Nikiski for a planned natural gas liquefaction plant, the terminus of a theoretical 800-mile pipeline from the North Slope to monetize the gas that is currently reinjected into wells there. As the management team has bought up land, the prices have remained secret, leading to questions from those whose property has not been purchased yet and concerns about property assessments in Nikiski in the future, if high purchase prices push up the market value of the residential parcels nearby.

Anderson clarified to the assembly that the assessing department had not received any information about those sale prices and likely wouldn’t consider them anyway because they are not considered “arm’s length transactions.”

“An arm’s-length transaction is between a willing buyer and a willing seller and with adequate exposure on the open marketplace,” he said. “I think in the case of those AKLNG purchases, that’s a highly motivated buyer, for one thing, and I believe they were just directly negotiated between the property owner and the buyer … without having seen the details of any of those transactions, my first impression would be that I wouldn’t consider those sales to be arm’s-length transactions.”

This year, the assessing department plans to put out notices letting property owners in Anchor Point, Kasilof and the other areas know that appraisers will be visiting the properties. The appraisers have the right to go onto people’s lands without permission, but they try to be as courteous as possible and let residents know what they are doing there, Anderson said. Most of the time, property owners are cooperative, and the staff members try to be clear about who they are, he said.

“We try to be as visible and transparent as possible,” he said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Sockeye salmon return to Steep Creek to spawn. Alaska’s overall commercial salmon harvest across all species is currently up 15% from 2021 (2020 for pinks) with Bristol Bay and the Prince William Sound largely carrying the weight while other regions lag, according to data from the most recent Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute weekly salmon harvest update. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Statewide salmon harvest on the upswing compared to last year

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound are mainly pulling the weight

Jake Dye / Peninsula Clarion
Congressional candidate Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3 in Kenai . Early Wednesday, Peltola had earned 38.4% of first-choice votes in a race that will determine who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat until January.
Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Democratic candidate Peltola leads U.S. House race early, but Palin may win in final count

Former governor and Republican U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin stands to benefit from ranked choice voting

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations on the rise

86 patients were hospitalized with 10 patients on ventilators

2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Pierce among leaders in governor’s race

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the pack overall

Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ruffridge, Babcock lead in early primary results

Unofficial preliminary primary election results showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates

Pollworkers Carol Louthan (center) and Harmony Bolden (right) work at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Local voters cast ballots, try out ranked choice

Locally, multiple candidates have their sights set on seats in the Alaska Legislature.

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Murkowski advances in Senate race, Palin in House

Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was among the candidates bound for the November general election

Most Read