The Property Tax Division of the Commission is responsible for assessing mining properties and other properties that operate across county lines, such as utilities, mines, telecommunications or transportation companies. These assessments are based on self-reporting affidavits submitted by the property owners by March 1 of each year. Assessment notices are mailed by May 1 each year.
Although the Property Tax Division assesses these properties, the tax dollars belong to the counties in which the property operates. For this reason, notice of each assessment is sent to the affected counties.
The owner of a centrally-assessed property has a right to file an appeal of the assessment by June 1. However, the affected counties also have an interest in the assessment and they may file an appeal. In fact, it is not unusual for both the taxpayer and the affected counties to file appeals on the same assessment. The cases are typically scheduled together.
By mid- to late-July, the parties (or their representatives) will meet with the assigned judge in a scheduling conference. At that time, the schedule for discovery or exchange of information will be set and the matter will be scheduled for further proceedings. In the meantime, the parties are encouraged to work toward settlement and, in fact, most of these cases are resolved through settlement negotiations without a hearing.
Settlement agreements typically come to the Commission as two-party agreements (an agreement between the property owner and the Property Tax Division) or as three-party agreements (an agreement signed by the property owner, the representative for the affected counties and the Property Tax Division). If the property owner and the counties’ representative reach agreement with the Property Tax Division, the Commission will review the agreement and issue an order approving the agreement so long as it is not contrary to law.
If the agreement is reached only between the property owner and the Property Tax Division, the Commission must give the affected counties notice and an opportunity to intervene prior to approving the agreement. To do that, the Commission issues an Order to Show Cause. If the affected counties do not object to the agreement, the Commission issues its Order of Approval. If an affected county objects to the agreement, the matter is set for further proceedings as appropriate and the positions of the objecting counties are fully considered before the Commission acts on the agreement.
If the parties do not settle the issues among them, the matter is set for a hearing. Like any other appeal, the parties are entitled to an Initial Hearing and Formal Hearing. The parties may waive the Initial Hearing and have the matter scheduled directly for a formal hearing. Mediation is also available.
The Initial Hearing process is an informal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The parties will profer testimony and present evidence in a legal argument. After deliberating the case, the Commission issues its Initial Hearing Decision and Order. Any party to the case may, within 30 days of that order, request a Formal Hearing. The Formal Hearing is a hearing of record. Depending on the nature of the issues involved, the Formal Hearing may be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge and one or more Commissioners. If the affected counties were party to the hearing proceedings, the Commission can issue its final order after deliberating the case. If the affected counties were not party to the Formal Hearing an Order to Show Cause is issued giving the counties an opportunity to voice objections or intervene before the final decision is issued.
After the Commission’s final order is issued, either the property owner or the affected counties, if they are party to or interveners in the case, may seek judicial review.