D.C. tax measure raises concerns

The D.C. financial control board has decided not to overturn a property tax appeals measure city voters approved last year, but the board has told the D.C. Council it has "very deep concerns" about the major provisions of the measure.

The measure, known as Initiative 51, affects appeals of assessments on commercial properties. It allows any taxpayer to appeal assessments on buildings to attempt to raise them; makes all information involved with appeals public; and calls for establishing an Office of the Public Advocate to examine assessments and appeals.

In a three-page letter sent to the council Friday, control board General Counsel Daniel A. Rezneck said the board has concerns about all three of those provisions and asked that council members consider legislation to remedy those concerns. To prevent abuse of the third-party right to appeal, he said, those who file appeals against property owners should be required to pay legal costs if they lose. He also said that proprietary business information should be protected even if appeals proceedings areopen to the public. And he said that the board questioned the effectiveness of spending money on an Office of the Public Advocate.

The initiative, approved by 80 percent of voters in November, originated in a campaign against commercial landlords by the Justice for Janitors effort of the Service Employees International Union. It has been loudly opposed by an array of city business interests, who asked the control board to overturn it and have said they will continue to fight it on Capitol Hill.

Washington Post
Publication Date: 
March 4, 1997