Routt County Assessor Mike Kerrigan explains how and when the county determines property values.
A mill is a tenth of a cent, or $1 of tax per every $1,000 of assessed property value. Routt County's total property valuation in 2008 was $1.12 billion. Its property tax revenue was about $14.75 million and is limited by TABOR. Dividing the property tax revenue by the property valuation gives the mill levy: 0.013, or 13 mills.
The mill levy changes each year because it's based on those other values.
Median sales prices in Steamboat Springs
Single-family home, June 30, 2006: $661,000
Single-family home, June 30, 2008: $765,000
Increase: 15.7 percent
Condominiums, June 30, 2006: $285,200
Condominiums, June 30, 2008: $439,000
Increase: 53.9 percent
Townhomes, June 30, 2006: $488,800
Townhomes, June 30, 2008: $671,060
Increase: 37.3 percent
Source: Mike Kerrigan, Routt County assessor
Steamboat Springs Letters are working their way toward Routt County property owners that might contain an unwelcome surprise.
The Office of the Routt County Assessor has mailed property value assessments. The county's total assessed property value jumped 38 percent from 2008 to 2009. The numbers and the notices reflect property values through June 30, 2008 - not what the real-estate market looks like now, County Assessor Mike Kerrigan said.
The early figures show that Routt's total assessed property value went from about $1.12 billion in 2008 to about $1.52 billion in 2009, he said.
"It's not just due to appreciation," Kerrigan said. "In the last two years, we have had a lot of new construction."
But a value increase doesn't necessarily mean property tax bills will be higher when they arrive in January. Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment, or TABOR, limits the amount of property tax money the county can bring in. The county sets its mill levy each November depending on what the appraised values are.
"What the amendment says is, you can't collect more revenue than the prior year, except local growth or new construction, not to exceed 5.5 percent," Kerrigan said.
State laws regulate how his agency assesses property. It's required to reassess every two years and must look at the 18 months before the appraisal date, at least. Routt County looks at the 24 months before that date. That's because the office wants to catch all the values in the two-year period since the previous appraisal, Kerrigan said.
That means these values reflect the market from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008. Unfortunately, Kerrigan noted, that covers the height of the real-estate boom in Steamboat Springs. Values peaked in May 2007 through August 2007, he said.
"It does not please my office to be reporting values to you that are higher than you'd expect," Kerrigan said.
Further complicating the situation, the assessment date on property is Jan. 1, 2009. That means people's property was assessed as of Jan. 1 using appraisal values from June 30, 2008.
People can appeal the property value to the Routt County Assessor, but they can't use information outside the two years before June 30, 2008.
"Anything that's happening now, we won't consider, but anything that happened in that time period can be used," Kerrigan said. "But it has to be adjusted for June 30, 2008."
Those who want to appeal must do so by June 1.
Lori Thompson, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors and a broker/owner with Colorado Group Realty, suggested that people call a professional if they're concerned.
"I do think if you're getting your property evaluations in the mail and you have questions about 'Is my value really this high?' or 'Would it be worth me investigating?' you should call your favorite Realtor and get some direct information from them," Thompson said.
Thompson said she'd seen sales volume decreasing in the real estate market and estimated that prices were decreasing 10 percent or 15 percent.
"Around Steamboat proper, I think they're holding their values better than Stagecoach or some of the surrounding areas," she said.
Kerrigan reminded people that the TABOR amendment relates to the assessment of the entire taxing municipality.
For example, if the district's value increases 30 percent, but your property value increases 50 percent, you're probably going to pay higher taxes.
"It doesn't pertain to your specific property," Kerrigan said. "The limitation is on revenue; it's not on value."
Whatever you pay, your money comes back, he said.
"Property taxes are all directed back to the community from which they derive," Kerrigan said. School districts receive most of the property tax money, he said.
When property owners receive their notices, they should remember that June 30, 2008, cutoff, Kerrigan said.
"I think they should ask themselves, 'Could I have sold this property for this amount in the early summer of 2008?'" he said.
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