Incumbent Spokane County Assessor Vicki Horton is seeking her first bid for re-election challenged by a fellow Republican, Roger Trainor, a real estate appraiser who has served on the East Valley School District board of directors.
The assessor’s office establishes property values for county properties.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? 56 years
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? As a real estate appraiser for over 10 years using the Assessor records, I consistently see structures missing from the tax rolls or properties assessed incorrectly. Four years ago, Ms. Horton placed an ad in the Spokesman to bring attention to missed properties and inconsistent property values. Four years later, those problems continue; and others have developed while the office is in disarray. Doorbelling, I heard the problems our seniors and disabled have in getting their property tax exemptions. I saw this firsthand as my 93 year-old father struggled with the process.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent? Ms. Horton had four years to remedy the problems in the assessor’s office, such as equalizing your property values, getting structures on the tax rolls and treating the taxpayers with honesty and transparency. It has not happened. These problems cost you and me our hard-earned money; I will efficiently solve these problems. I have elected office experience and over 30 years of real estate management/investing. For over 30 years, I’ve belonged to the Spokane Landlord Association with over 800 members, serving my third term as president. My real estate appraiser certification requires a four-year degree, 2,500 apprentice hours and 200 additional hours in real estate appraisal classes. I provide appraisals for banks, attorneys and individuals. My opponent’s appraisal experience comes only from government jobs, which doesn’t require either the education or experience I have. Ms. Horton is accredited which requires just one year of experience and no degree. I am an “outsider” to the assessor’s office, and will bring new ideas. I know the problems in the assessor’s office, and I will fix them.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the assessor's office going into the next four years? The office must be efficiently managed with limited funding. It’s time to equalize property values and add missing structures to the tax rolls. Stop paying your neighbors taxes; imagine paying less taxes.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? Senior citizens who qualify are not receiving their property tax exemptions; they aren’t aware of the program or because they need assistance with the process. Home owners are discouraged by the assessor from appealing their property values and told it will cost the taxpayers to appeal. Voters are confusing Vicki Horton, who has been in office 4 years with Vicky Dalton, the auditor.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? My husband was transferred by then ATT now Comcast in May 2000. I followed in June 2001 going directly to work for the assessor's office. We came from a very small community and have come to enjoy Spokane as our home. Our children followed us here and now we have grandchildren here.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? To continue the work I started in the last four years. My staff has worked too hard to let the office fall into the hands of someone who doesn't know how to mass appraise.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent? I am the only candidate that has mass appraisal experience, 20 years. I am accredited with the Department of Revenue. My opponent is licensed with the Department of Licensing. The Department of Revenue is our governing body. Not the DOL. My accreditation with the state of Washington gives me the right to do mass appraisals. My opponent does not have that accreditation. Department of Licensing is for fee appraisal. They appraise one tree at a time. We appraise the whole forest. Along with my supervisors we have established accountability measures for staff, consistent appraisal practices, commercial annual evaluations and very good customer service. We have created procedures that help to make our office and the treasurer's office more efficient with our common duties. My office is the best it has ever been with the best staff we have ever had. My opponent cannot lead the office and make decisions on appraisal and customer questions because he doesn't have any experience or knowledge of mass appraisal or the leadership skills.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the assessor's office going into the next four years? Doing more with less. We need to have field computers, which I have been working on for the last two years. The previous administration got tablets and laptops. A huge expense to the taxpayer without doing any investigation on how they would actually work in the field. They didn't work. They lost information between upload and download, were heavy and not conducive to sketching. They caused neck issues with the laptops because the appraisers had to put them on the steering wheel to use in the car. These issues are why I am waiting for the other counties to discover the bugs before I spend the taxpayers’ hard earned money. I anticipate field computers by 2016.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? The most surprising thing is I have been asked if I can lower taxes like my opponent says he can. I tell them no. If he were to lower taxes he would have to manipulate the levy rates for the taxing districts, and that is illegal. Taxes are determined by each taxing districts approved budgets then factored with the total assessed value of the district for the levy rate. They usually say, "I voted for you" or "I think you are doing a good job.” This makes me very humble that they still have faith in my leadership. I am proud to serve the taxpayers of Spokane County.