Judge rules in city’s favor in tax case

HUDSON–In a decision released November 26 Judge Paul Czajka dismissed a petition filed by Hudson Property Owners Coalition, Inc. (HPOC) against the City of Hudson, its assessor, Garth Slocum, and the Hudson School District. The ruling affirms the right of the city and the school district to collect taxes using the 2010 tax rolls and denies a request by the petitioners for an injunction against the city’s use of its current tax rolls.

Deborah Kinney, speaking on behalf of HPOC as well as Wendle Davis, Ruth Moser and Sarah Louie, who joined in the legal action against the city, confirmed this week that they plan to appeal the decision.

HPOC and the three other petitioners sought to prevent the city from using the 2010 final assessment roll to issue tax bills and collect taxes because they claimed that the roll was unlawful and unconstitutional. They sought instead to have the city use its 2009 tax roll, a move they say would not result in a significant loss of revenue, just the inconvenience of recalculating tax bills.

The city responded that the change would result in upsetting the equalization rate in all the communities in the Hudson City School District and would necessitate the closing of the school.

HPOC argued that a reassessment conducted by the city last spring resulted in increased assessments on 66% of all properties, including 659 property owners who saw their assessments rise by more than 50%. The group’s filing says that 23% of properties received a decreased assessment.

The petitioners claimed the result was a revaluation, not a simple adjustment. They assert that a properly conducted revaluation should have been accompanied by systematic review, notices sent to property owners, physical inspection of properties, and the filing a verified list of changes as required by real property tax law.

The city has said it will conduct a complete revaluation of all properties in 2011.

Judge Czajka, a county judge presiding in this case as an acting state Supreme Court justice, ruled that HPOC failed to prove on the basis of an expert opinion that the assessment adjustment was conducted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, and failed to demonstrate irreparable harm if their petition was not granted.

But the judge found that the city and the school district would suffer “serious harm by their inability to collect taxes and utilize the revenue to operate the City and the schools.”

Citing case law in his eight-page ruling, Judge Czajka wrote that appraisers are presumed to be right and he found that the petitioners should have submitted documentary evidence of another detailed appraisal by a qualified appraiser that rebuts the first.

He also ruled that the HPOC did not have standing to challenge the validity of the entire 2010 tax roll since it does not own property, pay taxes and is not aggrieved. Individual petitioners, he said, lack standing because they have not demonstrated that they suffer an injury distinct from that suffered by all taxpayers in the community at large.

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