INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Yet another decision by the Nevada Supreme Court has all-but assured Washoe County will pay back the $43 million it owes Lake Tahoe property owners, the leader of the community's tax revolt said this week.
Last Thursday, the high court handed down a unanimous order striking down a 2010 appeal from Washoe County to the Nevada Board of Equalization's ruling that 8,700 property owners were due refunds for taxes paid for the 2006-07 fiscal year.
Thursday's ruling comes more than a year after the Supreme Court's historic decision on July 7, 2011, ordering the Washoe County treasurer to refund $43 million to Incline property owners who were taxed illegally and unconstitutionally in 2006-07.
The county is processing those refunds, and has a court-mandated deadline of 5 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2013, to complete the payback.
"(Thursday's) decision absolutely puts an end to any further attempt by the county to (challenge) the $43 million," said Maryanne Ingemanson, president of the Village League to Save Incline Assets, the community grassroots group of tax revolters, in a Monday interview.
A phone message for Washoe County Chief Deputy Attorney David Creekman seeking comment for this story was not immediately returned.
According to Thursday's ruling, the Nevada Board of Equalization issued a written decision on Oct. 9, 2009, upholding an earlier decision by the Washoe County Board of Equalization to roll back assessed property values for 8,700 Incline Village/Crystal Bay properties to the 2002-03 tax year.
Washoe County on Nov. 6, 2009, filed a petition for judicial review of the state board decision, challenging the ruling while also arguing there was confusion as to exactly which individual taxpayers were due refunds. A pair of Incline taxpayers, including Village League member Chuck Otto, later filed a motion to dismiss the county's request.
On Jan. 10, the district court denied the taxpayers' motion, while also ordering Washoe County to name all the affected taxpayers and serve them (whenever judicial review is requested, affected parties must be served notice) within 30 days.
After the county amended its petition for judicial review in February 2010 to better identify the affected taxpayers, it then served each property owner by mail.
However, according to the high court's ruling Thursday, the one-page mailing "inexplicably" did not include the same updated and correct taxpayer information the county used to update its petition for judicial review.
This led Otto to file another motion to dismiss the county's petition, which the district court eventually granted, saying Washoe County "had failed to comply with the court's previous order granting Washoe County an opportunity to name all of the affected taxpayers and that the failure to name the taxpayers violated the statutory requirement for naming respondents in a petition for judicial review..."
Washoe County then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, leading to last Thursday's ruling that affirmed the district's court's decision.
Thursday's Supreme Court ruling dealt specifically with Washoe County's appeals to the State Board of Equalization's written decision from October 2009.
In related legal action, a Oct. 23, 2009, decision from Washoe County District Court Judge Brent Adams ordered the county treasurer pay back $13 million to Incline property owners. The order affirmed the previous ruling handed down by the Washoe County Board of Equalization - the same ruling the state board agreed with in October 2009.
In November 2009, the county appealed Adams' order because it felt it was legally flawed, according to previous reports. The appeal was eventually rejected by the high court in its historic ruling on July 7, 2011. The $13 million figure ballooned to $43 million due to interest that had piled up.
Thursday's high court ruling proves the Village League's fight since early 2003 for fair taxes is not only justified, Ingemanson said Monday, but finally paying off.
"We're coming ever closer to seeing an end to this ongoing battle," she said.
The Supreme Court has now unanimously ruled in the Village League's favor in six separate cases.
As for the current $43 million payback, Washoe County is nearly halfway there. According to its most recent status report, as of July of this year, 3,333 refunds have been processed to 3,764 parcels. The total amount doled out is a little more than $25.45 million.