Former Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman was in court this week to argue his case against the Maricopa County Assessor's Office over the appraisal value of his Gilbert home.
On Wednesday Berman told Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Michael L. Barth that he felt the county assessor's office was "making an example" of him. He said the difference in the actual value of his house and the amount for which it was appraised - and on which property taxes are paid - was based on inflated home prices from 2004 to 2007, a difference of $338,000, according to Berman's prepared statement.
"I was mayor of Gilbert for 10 years. I know the value of property taxes, and I would not be in here if it were a difference of $20,000," he said.
Berman said the current assessed value of his five-bedroom home is $858,300, but he said the recommended listing price is $651,250, according to a comparative market value report of current home prices. The report was produced by Elite Commercial Real Estate, the firm where Berman is an associate broker, according to the company's Web site.
"I am asking you to use the $651,250 number as a base and assess it at 80 percent, which has been customary, and give me a final assessment of $521,000," Berman said. Otherwise, "I will be paying the equivalent of taxes on six homes."
Barth explained home values are appraised in January for an upcoming year. Because the assessments were based off current estimates, not January's values, Barth scheduled a continuance for Dec. 2, so that Berman's estimates could be updated.
Three representatives from the assessor's office said requests to inspect Berman's home were unsuccessful, and his suggested property values were based on square footage that did not match the assessor's records.
County appraiser Sandie Savage told the judge the records actually indicated 5,300 square feet. Berman explained he must have made a mistake and said he used a figure of 4,300 square feet for his analysis, which he believed matched assessor's office records.
Savage, who was at the hearing, contacted Berman in early November to conduct an inspection and verify the square footage, including a unfinished basement started more than a decade ago, which would likely increase the appraised value.
Savage said Berman did not show up for the scheduled inspection and became unreachable by phone.
The assessor's office representatives met with Berman for about 15 minutes after the trial and agreed to discuss a possible settlement after Berman runs a new comparative value analysis based on January 2009 values with the correct square footage.
Both parties left the courthouse confident that an agreement could be reached based on that information.
"I'm hopeful that we'll come to an agreement outside of a hearing," Savage said.