Property owners have until June 1 to appeal property tax valuations

Tom Ross

— Property owners in Routt County are on the clock if they intend to protest their 2015 notices of property tax valuation by the June 1 deadline. But for the first time this year, taxpayers have quick access to the sales data that was used to reset the value of their property, making it easier to gauge if an appeal is worthwhile.

A link at the county assessor’s Web page allows property owners to view all the comparable sales used by appraisers in the assessor’s office to value different classes of property from single family homes, to resort condominiums and commercial buildings. Taxpayers can go to and click on the link: “2015 reappraisal sales info” to begin their own research.

This year’s valuation, which is based on property values determined as of June 30, 2014, and sales data gathered from the 24 months preceding that date, represents a double-digit-percent overall increase from the 2013 valuation and will become the basis for 2015 property tax bills due in taxpayers’ mailboxes in January 2016. The same valuation will be used for 2016 taxes.

“Overall, the average increase has been about 12 percent from the 2013 valuations,” County Assessor Gary Peterson reported. “This increase reflects an appreciating real estate market since the last reappraisal date of June 2012.

“Residential valuation is also up about 11 to 12 percent in the city (of Steamboat) limits,” Peterson said. “Duplex buildings that have been turned into townhomes have shown a little bit stronger increase — about 17 percent. Commercial is a very mixed bag — we’ve got some property going down and some going up. Overall, they are up about 6 to 7 percent. Some are seeing 15 to 20 percent increases.”

At the last valuation period, in 2013, there had been so few commercial sales, Peterson added, that it was very difficult to value properties. This time around, there were 90 sales of improved commercial properties, and although a number were airport hangars which aren’t particularly useful for this purpose, there were more comps for commercial appraisers in Peterson’s office to work with.

The assessor confirmed there is a natural tendency for property owners, upon seeing an increase in their valuations, to infer that their taxes will increase as well. But that’s often not the case, and, in fact, there is no direct correlation between increases in valuation and final tax bills, Peterson said. That’s due in part to the fact that the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limits how much Routt County, among other tax collecting entities, may increase the taxes its collects.

When valuation is up, taxing entities often end up lowering the mill levy to collect the tax revenue they are allowed by law. It’s also the case that, in periods of construction growth, there is a growing number of taxpayers to share the overall tax burden, Peterson observed.

The Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution requires that commercial property owners shoulder a larger share of the overall tax burden than do residential owners. The assessment rate on Colorado commercial properties is 29 percent. Since 1982, as residential property values here have grown faster than nonresidential properties, the assessment rate on homes has dropped from 21 percent to 7.96 percent, according to the state treasurer.

Property owners, both residential and commercial, who take the time to review the history of their valuation and property taxes, often find out the growth of taxes hasn’t mirrored the growth in the valuation of their property.

Taxpayers can copy the account number on their valuation notice into the search window at the assessor’s Web page and link to historic information about their valuations over time, as well as annual property tax amounts going back as far as 20 years.

A quick look at valuation and tax information for an actual three-bedroom, 1,800-square single family home in the Steamboat Springs city limits confirms that residential property taxes don’t correlate with changing valuations

The taxes paid on the home in 1995 were $1,312. They dipped to $1,275 in 2000 and peaked at $2,016 in 2008. The tax bill on the home retreated to $1,541 in 2009 and had dropped to $1,443 in 2014. That was roughly $130 more than the 1995 tax bill. Over the same timeframe, the valuation of the home grew dramatically and recovered from recession.

Peterson encourages property owners who are concerned about their valuation and contemplating an appeal to discuss the relevant information with his appraisal staff or simply call. It’s with that desire to talk it over in mind that he hasn’t posted the necessary “notice of value protest form” online, he said. The form is available by fax, U.S. mail or e-mail to property owners who call the office at 970-870-5544, or who visit in person. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Routt County Courthouse at 522 Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat Springs.

The assessor’s office will respond to appeals in writing by June 30. For property owners who are not satisfied with the outcome, a secondary appeal may be mailed or delivered to the Routt County Board of Equalization at the Courthouse by July 15.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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