We all share a wish to pay fewer taxes, but the statistics cited by Dorothy and Alfred Tella to support their contention that Fairfax County over-assesses property {Close to Home, Feb. 3} made the opposite case.

According to their figures, only 16 percent of sellers let their houses go for less than the assessed valuation; most by only a little bit less. Only 5 percent sold at more than a 10 percent discount from the assessed valuation.

Now the market value of an unsold home is an amorphous thing; the eventual selling price becomes the market value by definition, but common sense and experience show some people sell cheap or buy dear out of foolishness, inattention or because they are in a hurry.

The fact that so few sellers drop below the assessed valuation shows either that the individual assessments are amazingly accurate, or, as is more likely, they are reasonably accurate, and the average is well below the market value. Any economist who works with statistics can tailor the presentation to bolster his case; if this is the best that can be done, Citizens for Sensible Taxation would do better to pursue nobler quixotic goals like saving spotted owls or banning world hunger.

JACK AUBERT Falls Church