KEARNEY — Buffalo County Assessor Ethel Skinner will be speaking Tuesday to Kearney area real estate agents.

Her presentation and those by real estate agent Matt Meister, Kearney City Councilman Jonathan Nikkila and Buffalo County Board Chairman Bill McMullen of Kearney are intended to help the real estate professionals understand more about the property taxation process, Meister said.

He is one of three Kearney real estate agents who have been meeting as an advisory committee with Skinner and McMullen.

“We have met a few times and it has been incredibly informative,” Meister said. “We have learned many restrictions that the assessor faces in trying to get the assessed values correct.”

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The advisory committee meetings have been part of a seven-step plan McMullen drafted to achieve more accurate and consistent tax valuations in Buffalo County. Despite hiring paid referees to hear valuation protests at an annual cost of $150,000 to $160,000, the county has averaged more than 2,100 protests annually for the past three years.

The valuation issue came to a head when Kearney real estate agent Robert Fitzgerald complained about the situation during a standing room-only meeting July 8 of the Buffalo County Board of Commissioners.

McMullen’s response was to draft a seven-step plan, which is guiding actions by Skinner and her staff to review procedures, to receive training and to educate the public about the tax valuation process.

Components of the seven-step plan are:

No. 1: Outside review of assessor’s office procedures;

No. 2: Training of assessor’s staff;

No. 3: Flagging assessments that increase or decrease by 5 percent or more;

No. 4: Sending preliminary valuation notices on Feb. 1 so property owners and assessor’s office may correct mistakes before the valuation protest period;

No. 5: Sending reminders to property owners about filing dates and deadlines;

No. 6: Educating the public about the assessment process; and,

No. 7: Appointing an advisory committee to work with the assessor’s office.

Most of the steps have been addressed.

The Nebraska Property Tax Administrator’s Office earlier this year observed operations in the assessor’s office, and the staff has been receiving training in-house and at other locations.

In addition to McMullen, Skinner and Meister, members of the assessor’s advisory committee are Kearney real estate agents Rocky Geiser and Nicole Straka, and commissioners Myron Kouba of Kearney and Dennis Reiter of Elm Creek.

The aim of Tuesday’s presentations, Meister said, is to educate real estate agents about the valuation process and how it affects various governing entities, such as the city of Kearney and Buffalo County.

The presentations will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Educational Service Unit 10 headquarters, 26 Plaza Boulevard.

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