Valley Falls Manor Hosts Tax Dispute, Rare Court Appeal

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 12:00 am  

The appraisal controversy over the west Little Rock mansion entered the rare third level of the appeals process on Nov. 27.

The Wortmans appealed the $3.2 million valuation to Pulaski County Circuit Court, and the case was assigned to Judge Jay Moody. The administrative record of the case has yet to be filed, and a hearing date has yet to be set.

“It’s the only one that went that far,” said Joe Thompson, chief administrator for the Pulaski County Assessor’s Office. “We had an extremely light appeal season.”

The Pulaski County Board of Equalization heard appeals of valuations on 647 properties, divided between 477 residential parcels and 170 commercial during 2013. That appeals tally represents only 0.3 percent of the 171,456 residential and commercial parcels on the county tax rolls.

That volume compares to 2012, a reappraisal year that produced 5,016 appeals.

The valuation of the Wortman home was only one of five property tax disputes that weren’t resolved at the Board of Equalization level and were appealed to Pulaski County Judge Floyd “Buddy” Villines.

The county’s $3.2 million appraisal of the Wortman home was affirmed by Villines on Nov. 13.

“There wasn’t anything that was compelling that said the county assessor was wrong,” Villines said. “If you’re going to overturn that process, you have to have something. With the information that was presented, I couldn’t do that.”

The doubling in value of the property on the tax rolls is tied to the rehabilitation of the home, which was completed in 2013.

The mansion was the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Wortmans in December 2009 against its builder, Rick Ferguson. The dispute ended with a mid-trial settlement in January 2011.

The settlement included Ferguson giving the Wortmans four undeveloped residential lots in the Bella Rosa Estates neighborhood of west Little Rock. The property was sold in two February 2013 transactions totaling $349,000.

The Wortmans were seeking more than $6 million in damages from Ferguson and his Rick Ferguson Inc., Pinnacle Precast Co. and VFE Inc. for alleged major construction flaws.



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