Routt County property values surged, but taxes won’t increase at the same rate
The Routt County Assessor’s office mailed in early May updated property valuations and tax estimates, and county officials want taxpayers to understand their taxes will not increase at the same rate as the significantly elevated valuations.
“It will not be a direct correlation between tax liability and increase in value,” Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson said.
Although final tax bill amounts will not be available for eight months, the general theory is that if a property went up in value about 50%, for example, the taxes will go up approximately 10% to 20%, Peterson said.
The final tax amounts will depend on the fate of state legislative bills, ballot measures in November and how the 44 taxing authorities in Routt County set their mill levies. As of now, the taxing authorities have until Dec. 15 to make their decision, Peterson said.
A key piece of information, which is a new addition to the two-year notice of valuation, is an estimate that shows a range of the possible tax amount for 2023, which is payable in 2024.
“Be sure to read the tax estimate amount alongside of the actual value amount because the tax increases in general are not rising as fast as the actual value,” advised real estate professional David Baldinger Jr. at Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty.
“Routt County’s property tax collections for its general fund, Road and Bridge, Human Services and E-911 Communications are limited by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and can only increase by a small percentage,” according to a statement by the Routt County Board of Commissioners. “Most other taxing entities in the county are not limited by TABOR and are subject to a variety of fixed, floating and revenue-targeted mill levies. Therefore, you may see a greater increase on your tax bill from entities with fixed mill levies.”
Peterson estimates his office may receive 2,000 requests from property owners for reassessments of their actual property value or classification, and he welcomes that process since the valuations are based on “mass appraisal” format.
“There are always properties that don’t model well, either come in low or high, (and) properties that don’t model as well as we would like. We are going to have some over and undervalued in a mass appraisal process,” Peterson explained.
During the last three cycles of odd-numbered-year property tax valuations, the assessor’s office received some 800 appeals each cycle, and the all-time high for appeals happened in 2009 with 2,950, Peterson said.
Baldinger reviewed property notices for 10 friends, and he found 80% of those property valuations to be accurate based on the residential comparable sales that are used to determine valuations.
For two of those properties, which are condominiums, Baldinger suggested the owners have a valid case to appeal their assessments based on a limited number of comparable sales or comps largely from neighborhoods of historically high values.
Real estate agent Charlie Dressen, who also has been reviewing multiple 2023 assessments and posted an explanatory video on his Facebook page, said he believes the assessor’s website has become more accurate with valuations, noting, “It’s much closer to fair market value than it was 10 years ago.”
The real estate agents say property owners need to make sure the tax assessor’s online database lists the property’s information correctly.
“Both comparable sales and characteristics of your home, you definitely need to check that. If either of those are off significantly, probably it’s worth contesting the value of your property,” Dressen said.
The assessor’s office has a new website that includes a feature called “comper” added in January and allows owners to view which property sales were used as comparable sales.
Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson said if property owners submit an appeal because they believe their property was valued too high, a staff assessor may need to see the property in person to conduct an accurate reassessment.
The property valuation notices mailed by the county in early May are based on an appraisal date of June 20, 2022, which is established by 24 months of preceding market data.
“It’s all a part of the mass appraisal process. We are trying to estimate a fair market value for properties that haven’t sold for an estimated market value within 5 to 10%,” Peterson said. “We encourage property owners to come in to talk to us if they have a concern with their value.”
The deadline to submit a property appeal form in June 8.
Before requesting an appeal, Peterson asks property owners to learn as much as possible about the property’s assessment and the appeal process because the appointments are only 15 minutes. An FAQ, sales spreadsheets, interactive maps, area statistics and details surrounding the reassessment and appeals process are available online at http://www.co.routt.co.us/942/2023-Reassessment.
The assessor’s office is closed to walk-in business through June 8 due to the by-appointment-only scheduling. Questions can be submitted email at email@example.com or by phone at 970-870-5544.
The averages for 2023 property taxes are difficult and complicated to predict because the county has 53 different taxing districts with 53 formulations of mill levies that come from 44 taxing entities such as cemeteries, cities, libraries, metro districts, schools, and fire and water agencies.
Taxing districts can choose not to take a large windfall from the significant increases in property values, Peterson said.
State Senate Bill SB23-108, which is expected to be signed by the governor, would allow a local government to provide temporary property tax relief through temporary property tax credits or mill levy reductions and later eliminate the credits or restore the mill levy.
In an informal email polling of taxing authorities across the county to ask if they plan to change their mill levy for 2023, responses were ranging. Some entities strapped for funding or in need of infrastructure improvements say they will not lower their mill levy. Many entities are still considering it.
“At this point it is too early to make a decision in regard to changing the mill levy,” said Ken Rogers, manager of South Routt Health Service District. “We need to see how the total property valuations play out along with the property tax relief proposal that will be on the November ballot.”
Matt Gianneschi, Colorado Mountain College chief operating officer, said the college management will recommend that the CMC trustees utilize the authority in SB23-108 to temporarily lower the college’s mill levy in 2023. CMC plans to collect revenues from residential and commercial property taxes equal to only the total amount collected in 2022 plus standard inflation, Gianneschi said.
Mary Boyd, CMC vice president of fiscal affairs, noted, “Having the ability to temporarily lower our mill levy is a useful tool that we’ve not had before.”
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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