Saturday, August 11, 2007

Incompetence of Nancy Marshall, the IQ (I Quit) Assessor

First off, Nancy Marshall is a liar. She promised to quit if elected, and she's still on the job. Sure, she can say that quitting was only possible if all the other "I Quit" quitters won; but she ran on a quitting platform and hasn't quit yet. If she really was committed to the "I quit" platform, she would have refused to take office once it became clear that the other "I quit" quitters were defeated.

Now, it just so happens that I opposed the "I Quit" quitters from the beginning, on principle. I just think that anyone who elects someone who promises to quit and to appoint an unelected person in her stead is a foolish voter. It's like giving the "I quit" quitters your blank ballot with a signature and having them assign your vote to any person of their choosing. I actually actively campaigned against this completely cynical movement on the notion that I'd rather have someone at least nominally familiar with the real estate and property assessment market holding authority in assessing the value of my property for tax purposes. Nancy Marshall knew nothing about property assessment and real estate valuation. The only thing she knew, so she claimed, was how to be a good quitter, and she couldn't even follow through on that. So, what good is she and what good is her word? Anyway, we're now stuck with her because foolish voters elected an incompetent and unknowledgable person to office hoping that she would, indeed, quit. Which she couldn't even muster up the courage to do.

Well, that's neither here nor there. What's done is done. The sad thing is that she was the only "I Quit" quitter to win, and she just happened to be running for Assessor of the District that contains my home.

Now, Nancy Marshall is making assessments based on who knows what. And people are complaining. Rightfully so. And I'll give you a personal example of her incompetence.

A few weeks ago or so, all City Assessors mailed out property assessment letters to property owners. Property assessment values across the board, throughout all assessment districts, witnessed an overall aggregate increase of more than 50%. In Nancy Marshall's district, the overall increase in property assessments was in the 60-70% range.

Now, as someone whose property had been properly assessed from the moment my wife and I purchased our home, I did not experience significant sticker shock like many other New Orleans residents. In fact, if millages go down (as the law requires) and stay down (as many hope), I should see an overall lower tax bill when all is said and done. So, I'm not complaining about this major city-wide correction of property assessments. I actually support it as a measure of fairness in equitable taxation based on proper property assessment.

So, that's not where my beef with Nancy Marshall lies. My home is pretty much fairly assessed by her office. My beef with her is the incompetence in the way that she runs her office. Here's an example of what I mean. Just today, I received a "REVISED" property assessment letter from her. My overall property assessment increased slightly from the amount indicated in the assessment letter I received from her some weeks ago. This means a slight bump in revenue for the City, but still another little slice out of my pocketbook. So, there is that. Now maybe that "revised" assessment is the correct one; but how in the hell can it have changed even an iota in just a few weeks? If she made a mistake, o.k. But even still, that "mistake" is one measure of incompetence. I can only imagine how this "mistake" played out for other homeowners. But that's not the half of it. Even though the overall assessment increased only slightly, the revisions to each of the two parts of my property tax assessment were very different from the assessment I received just a few weeks ago in the original letter sent out by Nancy Marshall. In other words, the mistake was not a minor one, but a major one. Let me explain. Assessments are made on (1) the land and (2) the buildings on the land. In the letter Nancy Marshall sent out some weeks ago, my land was assessed at $3,200 (which is 10% of the appraised value) and the building was assessed at $19,530 (which is, again, 10% of the appraised value). [NOTE: I don't know why assessments are calculated at 10% of the appraised value, but that's how it's done here.] In the "REVISED" assessment, which I just received today, my land assessment was increased to $4,860 and my buldings assessment decreased to $18,180. So, while the overall total was a net increased assessment of only $310 (from $22,740 to $23,040), this difference masks a major "mistake" in property assessment of both the value of my land and my actual home. So, I'm a bit chafed that Nancy Marshall could make such a blatant mistake in assessments. It makes me wonder how she arrived at the first assessment, and then how she arrived at the second assessment. In either case, it is a sign that she doesn't know jack about what she is doing. But what chafes me even more is the fact that a "REVISED" assessment arrived today. Why? Because, according to the law, if I want to contest this "REVISED" assessment, I only have until August 15 to visit my assessor and review the details of this new assessment. That's next Wednesday. And there's no way that anyone can get an appointment to see her over this time period given that the first round of assessment letters produced a wave of complaints. And I only have until Aug. 20 to appeal her assessment. So, Nancy Marshall made a mistake, notified me late, and gives me very little time to appeal or contest. In a word: incompetent.

She's a pathetic excuse for an assessor. But, what should we have expected? After all, she didn't run on a platform of competence, only on a platform of "quitting." I just wish she at least had the damn integrity to live up to her campaign promises.

UPDATED Monday, August 13, 2007, at 2:45pm: I updated this posting to correct for some minor grammatical errors as well as to correct for how property assessments are calculated. In the original post, I incorrectly referred to the assessment values as "mills." The basic figures remain the same, just the terminology has been changed. I edited and added text to clarify this.


oyster said...

Here's a quote from the IQ ticket campaign platform:

"I QUIT " means, 'We are going to work ourselves out of a job.' "I QUIT" means " I quit politics as usual". It does not mean " I quit once elected." We will serve until such time as the legislature consolidates the seven assessors. We will serve without pay, using the $5,277,000 that the current assessors have available to actually appraise Orleans' properties. If not all of the IQ team is elected, we will use that portion of the funds we control in our districts to properly assess the parcels.

Huck said...

Oyster - Thanks for the clarification. If I am mistaken about the IQ platform and what they meant by their "I quit" slogan(which apparently I was), I am sure that I am not alone. One does not go around fashioning a movement whose mantra is one of quitting. That is not, in my mind, a very smart way of advocating reform. I think it is a very cynical way of advocating reform.

In any event, the general message of the "I Quit" ticket was never that the candidates were running on the basis of qualifications for the job. And I still have problems with that approach to democratic politics.

The fact that I received two such divergent assessments within a two week period simply reinforces the notion that Nancy Marshall is incompetent. I mean, really, what in the world outside of incompetence could explain this? For all I know, Nancy Marshall could have issued another "REVISED" assessment that would appear to be just as random in how it is calculated as the other two. In the past, the IQ ticket supporters would have taken this kind of thing as evidence of the incompetence of an assessor.

So, while I may have misunderstood how the IQ ticket defined what it meant to "quit," I still wish that Nancy Marshall would have "quit" in the normal and traditional understanding of that term.

Huck said...

Also, Oyster, part of the IQ platform, as you note above, says this: "If not all of the IQ team is elected, we will use that portion of the funds we control in our districts to properly assess the parcels."

At least in terms of the assessment of my property, I can't say, based on the two divergent assessments that I received within a two week period, that the funds Nancy Marshall controls in her district are being used "to properly assess the parcels."

oyster said...

Fine, Huck.

I'm curious. How would you rate, in relative terms, Marshall's competence level to that of her predecessors and the "work" they did pre-2007?

Huck said...

That's a very fair question. I think Coman and his mother were equally incompetent. I didn't mention this in my posting, but I fully support the consolidation of the assessors and a radical reform of the way business was being conducted. I was someone whose house was being assessed at fair market value while my neighbors, who have much bigger homes and lots, valued in the 350K plus range, were assessed sometimes even below the homestead exemption. I didn't like the inequity in the system and I desperately wanted reform. And, moreover, I find the family cronyism that characterized the way the Assessors offices were held to be very distasteful.

But, just because I had a problem with what was there and how the offices functioned didn't translate to a protest vote for people whose abilities to do fair and equitable assessments I had little confidence in.

At one level, the frustrations with the system that propelled the IQ ticket, in the sense of wanting to reform it, I sympathized with. But I thought the methods they employed and the cynicism with which they sought to undermine the process we had in place to effect reform were wrong. Good intentions, but wrongheaded way to realize them.

I would much rather have had someone reform-minded, but also competent and knowledgable about the job and the real estate valuation and assessment process, as my assessor.

And I do believe that whatever mistakes led to my receiving two different assessments within a two week period might be attributable not to Nancy Marshall's good intentions, but to her finding herself in a job for which she is unqualified and in which she might be over her head. And I fear that her being in over her head might lead her to "go soft" on those who become very loud squeaky wheels about these current re-assessments.

Huck said...

On second reading, I'm not sure I completely answered your questions. Perhaps in relative terms, Nancy Marshall might be better than her predecessors. Might be. But that's not saying much, is it?

Her track record so far, at least in terms of the "revised" assessment of my property within a two week period, which is all I have to go on, makes me wonder.

oyster said...

Hey, thanks for the response, I appreciate it.

Huck said...

You're welcome, oyster. But, in fact, it is I who should be thanking you profusely for visiting my blog and leaving comments! So, thanks! Keep up the great work at YRHT. I read you almost daily. I'm looking forward hopefully, if I can make it, to meeting you at the Rising Tide conference, too.

Schroeder said...

Here again, transparency is needed to demonstrate to citizens how the assessments were done (what formula, software, data), and that are being made equitably.

I'm suspicious about the appeals process. Certainly people should have a right to appeal, but how those appeals are made relative to the assessment formula should be an open book as well.

There's my gripe. If everything were out in the open from the get-go, people would have known where they stand, and have a basis for disputing some of the underlying assumptions and calculations.

Huck said...

schroeder - That, my friend, is a very sensible proposition. One would think that an assessor elected from the IQ ticket would have done precisely what you suggest. I remember reading in a recent Times-Picayune article where Nancy Marshall, when asked about the appeals process and the people she was meeting regarding appeals, said something like, "well, they all seem to have very good reasons for revising their assessment." Of course they do. We all do. And this implies that all it takes is a sour face and an appointment with Nancy Marshall and one can get his/her assessment readjusted downward to "comfortable" levels again.