Peffer: New Technology Could Improve Property Valuations 10/11/18 10:45:24 PM
This is the second in a series of two, examining the candidates for Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds.
Peffer: New Technology Could Improve Property Valuations
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
Walt Peffer believes the past and present work of the Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds’ Office is a problem in need of a solution.
Peffer said the office remains in “turmoil” despite recent changes to the valuation process, and he wants to use technology and improve communication to provide better outcomes for taxpayers.
“I have always loved public service,” Peffer said. “I was encouraged to run. I thought that this would be a way to give back to the community.”
Peffer, a Republican, has served in a variety of business and government roles, including as executive assistant to several
Omaha mayors, over the past three decades. He currently works as a sales and leasing agent for PJ Morgan Real Estate. He’s challenging incumbent Diane Battiato, a Democrat.
Last year’s property valuation increases – which saw thousands of valuation protests following a 2016 order by the state government that also raised valuations across much of the county – prompted Peffer to enter the race, he said. He alleges
many valuations in Douglas County remain unfair.
“I get called all the time from citizens all over the city talking about their valuations,” Peffer said. “It’s not fair and equitable presently, and that’s where it needs to get.”
To improve the situation, Peffer is proposing an overhaul of the office’s computer systems to allow for valuations for tax purposes to be prorated against market value for each specific home, instead of doing those adjustments off the 17 market areas currently used by the office.
Funding for new computer systems could come from money set aside in the register of deeds’ side of the office, Peffer said. Doing so would require legislation, but he said he’s discussed the proposal with lawmakers who are willing to bring a bill to the Unicameral that would clear the way for the purchases.
Additionally, Peffer said he would like to do away with the current approach of conducting inspections once every six years. The market value of new homes are fixed when they’re purchased, he said, and the office could use technology such as drones and satellite images to check for unpermitted improvements. Otherwise, he said permit data provides the information
necessary to periodically adjust valuations.
“You really don’t need to be going out there every six years,” Peffer said. “A lot of people don’t answer their doors, and, in this environment, a lot of people see someone walking around in their backyard – they’re probably going to call the police. So why are we doing that? We don’t need to.”
Peffer is a Vietnam War veteran who has served as executive assistance to former Omaha mayors Eugene Leahy, Edward Zorinsky, Walter Calinger and P.J. Morgan. He lobbied the Nebraska Legislature, Omaha City Council and Douglas County Board of Commissioners on behalf of the Calinger and Morgan administrations. He also served as director of the City of Omaha’s Administrative Services Department.
He joined P.J. Morgan Real Estate in 1998. As a senior associate, he has represented private sector clients as well as municipal, county, state and federal agencies. Morgan, a Republican, is running unopposed for his third term on the Douglas County Board. Peffer said Morgan and several other prominent public officials encouraged him to run for the office.
Peffer pointed to endorsements from several Democrats, which includes former Rep. Brad Ashford and Douglas County Commissioners Mike Boyle and Marc Kraft, as evidence that he’s coming to the race from a bipartisan perspective. He said there’s not a Democratic or Republican way – only “the correct and fair way” to obtain accurate valuations.
Should he win, he pledged only to serve one term. After four years, he said he’d look for another candidate to replace him so he could return to the private sector.
“There are a lot of citizens out there who are not happy,” Peffer said. “I just want to go in, straighten the mess out and come back out.”