Routt County could hire hearing officer for property tax appeals

Routt County officials are looking to hire a hearing officer that specializes in appraisals to aid in the property tax assessment process in a year anticipated to bring a bundle of appeals. 

County Assessor Gary Peterson has indicated property owners can expect roughly a 50% increase in property tax valuations this year, which has commissioners expecting a plethora of protests. 

Property owners and taxpayers generally would go to the County Board of Equalization Appeals, or CBOE, directly if they want to appeal an assessment made by the county assessor. The purpose of the board is to ensure just and equalized property tax assessments and is made up of the three county commissioners.

“We the county commissioners sit on the CBOE and listen to each one of these cases individually. It’s extremely time consuming, oftentimes very tedious, that really required CBOE to carefully consider the merits of the appeals,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said during a county meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

In the meeting, Corrigan outlined the benefits of having a hearing officer to not only bring more expertise to the table, but to expedite the process. 

For the first time last year, Routt County utilized a statute that allows for the appointment of a hearing officer. This position not only lessens the load for the CBOE, but it also brings in someone with a background in appraisals, something that generally not everyone who sits on CBOE has. 

The hearing officer evaluates the assessor’s decision and the appeal, and makes a recommendation to the CBOE for either approval, denial or an amendment.

Last year also brought a change in classification for vacant and adjacent lots, which further complicated and elongated the property tax assessment process. 

Routt County Attorney Erick Knaus suggested the possibility of having to use a hybrid model if the county does not have a sufficient hearing officer to fill the void. There are statutory time frames in which the hearings must happen.

Commissioners plan to revisit the topic once they advertise the position and figure out hourly rates and payment. 

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