I read a couple of the other discussion forums here on the 'tax lightning' issue, but wanted to add a clarifying discussion of my own. As a loan officer for a bank, I am very interested in this topic and how it directly affects my new home owners. I have seen for years how inequitable this issue is both for new buyers and for sellers. It just wasn't a fair way to assess taxes.

So, here's my understanding of where we are. For people that bought their homes in 2008 and did NOT protest the increase in their taxes, they must still file a lawsuit for the refund of the new tax amount. There is a window of opportunity that is now open and they have until January 9, 2010 to file their lawsuit. Even though the taxes will supposedly be lowered in 2010, you will still be able to get a refund back if you sue.

For people that bought homes in 2009, when the taxes are re-assesed in April, they must (unless things are fixed by then) file a protest with the Bernalillo County Tax Assessor and most likely will win. At least that's my understanding.

Here's where the confusion comes in. My understanding is that in 2010 the issue will be solved by the Bernalillo County Tax Assessor Karen Montoya. She stated last Friday that she is rolling back taxes for homes that changed hands since 2002, back to those 2002 levels with the appropriate 3% annual bump. However, there won't be any refunds of taxes for 2008 & 2009 unless you actually file the lawsuit. I feel that people who have been following this issue will be lulled into feeling that they don't have to do anything, and that the issue will be solved automatically. Yes and no. For 2008 & 2009, no. For years going forward, probably yes.

My two cents, for what they are worth.

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Michelle, disclosure was required only 7 months ago. Tax Lightning has been going on a lot longer than that. Can you imagine buying a home - carefully figuring out your monthly budget - going to closing and seeing that figure that you know you can afford and feeling good about it. Then one year later, getting your new tax bill and subsequent new mortgage payment with $325/mo added to it? And then how alone you would feel when you called your lender and they had no idea what had happened to you. And how angry you would feel when you called the Assessors office and they told you that you could file a law suit but it would be expensive and you would lose. That was the reality for so many of us in the past years and we are just calling for it to be made right. We are calling for justice so we can stay in our homes - yes, homes that many of us would not have been able to afford had we been properly prepared to make informed decisions - but, homes that we CAN afford according to the NM Constitution.
When that happened to me, I called all over town and no one could tell me what was going on. Everyone kept pointing at someone else and no one could explain it to me at all. My mortgage went up 20% and the mortgage people said it was cause my taxes went up and no one could or would explain to me why my taxes went up and after several months, I remained clueless. I appeared to have no recourse and I couldn't even get an explanation of why things had changed and eventually I gave up trying to figure it out and just chalked it up to another shitty home buying experience. I eventually saw discussions here on the Fix and that was how I came to understand what actually happened.

So I'm totally with AF on this one. How are you supposed to be fiscally responsible when completely random assessments were being made? (And without disclosure, which wasn't there, you can't say that wasn't the case.)

It's lucky I had savings because my income was not adequate to cover that difference.
If the tax rate were to increase for everyone, it would not have to increase by 3 or even 6%. It would be a much smaller increase to get the same amount of revenue. The burden needs to be spread around a bit more.
Indeed!! Although, we're not really talking about the "tax rate" we're talking about "property valuations". But yes, if everyone paid just a few dollars more instead of a few paying thoudands of dollars more, it would balance out.
"A person who can afford to buy a house is better able to pay more taxes" What? You are comparing apples to oranges. We are not comparing property owners to renters, we are just talking about property owners, hence property tax. By using that statement to justify tax lightning, what you are really saying is "a person who could afford to buy a house in the last few years is better able to pay more taxes than a person who bought a house a certain number of years ago" What are you talking about?

Also, c'mon this has nothing to do with FAIR it's about being LEGAL which it's not. And yes, if the government needs more tax revenue, then they should raise the tax rate instead of taxing some people illegally. "The 75% of home owners who were not struck by "tax lightning" need to understand where this is really headed." I'm not sure where the 75% figure came from but those homeowners also have to realize that just because they may have paid less for their homes than tax lightning victims, that doesn't mean their house is worth any less - remember, we are talking about property valuations.They should be responsible for their share of the tax burden too. To this you may say: well they didn't sign up for higher taxes when they purchased - neither did we! My new tax burden was not disclosed to me. If it had been I would not have been able to afford the home I bought and I am currently struggling to keep it. Plus, do you really think people are happy to feel "stuck" in their homes?

Anyway, a house's value should not be an attribute of the owner. If the Assessor wants correct and current valuations, then do it accross the board and allow exemptions for the elderly with limited income. Then the exemptions are an attribute of the owner and will follow them if they have to move (currently tax lightning is affecting people of this class too). If they reassesd property in this way, they would not have to raise the rate because the burden would be equally distributed and balance out.
I don't think I said I agreed with it, I was just saying what may have been behind it. I don't think income is an allowed category for tax differences either.

There is currently a small state rebate (max. $250 for a couple) for low-income (under $16,000 MGI) people over 65 who pay property taxes. This can be homeowners, or renters whose rent isn't subsidized. They have to file their taxes to get it, which may cost as much as the rebate. That's one reason I do taxes for free at my senior center.
3 classes: age, income and owner occupancy; NOT acquisition date
Here's something from Senator Mark Boitano, received yesterday SUN FEB 14:
Subject: Property Tax Lightning -
Date: Sun 02/14/10 01:50 AM

Dear Friends of Tax Fairness: It's 1:45 a.m. and we're still debating bills on the Senate floor. Tonight, we passed two bills aimed at fixing property tax lightning ... one bill is better than the other, but neither of them is the perfect solution. Unfortunately, I don't think we are going to pass an ideal bill, so I've decided to support both bills:

SJC Sub SB 160 - Sen. Neville. This bill brings all properties to a current and correct valuation within 5-years through a phase up for those under accessed and phase down for those hit by tax lightning. After working on this issue for three years and seeing 12+ bills attempting to fix the problem, I believe this is the best we can do to equalize values. The "correct" fix for those hit by tax lightning is *not* something that the entire legislature will pass, plain and simple.

SB 46 - Sen. Eichenberg. This bill says that beginning in 2011 the 3% cap would stay in place regardless of a change in ownership. This bill does nothing to equalize the present disparity but would prevent future tax lightning.

These bills passed the Senate and are going to the House of Representatives. Presently, the House is positioned to pass a memorial that says we should "study the problem." Please contact the House and strongly encourage them to act on a tax lightning fix and support Sen. Neville's bill - it's the best bet for a tax lightning fix.

As I see it with WJC Sub SB 160, everyone gets screwed. I am not sure how those of us hit by tax lightning get any benefit of the bill. If anything, we could see big problems with New Mexico's housing market in the next 5 years should this bill pass. Think about it, how many people already bought houses right on the line of what they can afford? And now your going to bring their property tax up to "current" levels? Ouch! Wonder how many people will lose their houses due to not being able to pay property taxes if this should pass?

Now, I could be wrong. I've not seen these bills, so I have no clue what is really called for. But if what is said above is true, then this could be a "fun" ride in the housing market.
Consider this; current levels are very likely less than what people paid at the peak of the market. So I wouldn't rule out a reduction of valuations in some cases. In my neighborhood asking prices are (downward) approaching what the houses sold for new 15 years ago.
Yes, that's true. Which brings up another point - the market is so unstable, who knows what will happen over 5 years. What if values get reassessed and then after 5 years are out of whack again if the market continues to tank?


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