Property owners can get some tax perspective
Property owners feeling queasy about their tax bills might find reassurance by looking up the 10-year history of their bills at the Routt County assessor’s website.
Visit www.co.routt.co.us/assessor.html. Click on the bar that reads assessor/treasurer property search. You might have luck searching by your name, but the most precise way to find your information is by searching by your subdivision name and then scrolling down until you see your address and name. Once there, click on the blue string of numbers and then scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the history of your property taxes.
Steamboat Springs The tax valuation of property in Routt County dropped by more than $300 million in the past two years, but it wasn’t as steep a decline as Assessor Gary Peterson had feared.
“Overall, values declined 21 percent compared to the 2009 reappraisal,” Peterson said. “Four or five weeks ago, I was anticipating a 25 percent decline.”
Notices of values were mailed to all Routt County property owners on May 1, and depending upon the classification of property (from agricultural to residential to commercial) and the location, owners may see a range of changes in their values with a relative few possibly seeing an increase in their values.
Peterson is aware that property owners are likely to have the perception that the value of their homes, land and commercial buildings have dropped even further — it’s a product of state laws that mandate that tax valuations always will lag the retail market, both when values are ascending and declining.
The first thing property owners need to understand about their notices, Peterson said, is that sales activity during the past 10 months was not taken into account when county appraisers set the value of their property.
The 2011 values were determined as of June 30, 2010, based on sales and market activity in the preceding 24 months. That means comparable sales were taken from as long ago as the second half of 2008.
Even the freshest notices of valuation can lag current market activity, which can be seen in a couple May home sales.
One is a home that sold for $625,000 on Monday in the Margarite Ridge subdivision off Tamarack Drive. The four-bedroom home is 10 years old and spacious — it totals 3,383 square feet and sits on a 0.39-acre lot that is above average size for the Tamarack area. Keeping in mind that comparable sales used to value the house for taxes go back to late 2008, the new valuation is $808,000.
Significantly, the actual tax bills for the home in 2010 and 2009 were $2,700 and $2,360 respectively — down from $3,300 in 2008.
The second home is less than a mile away as the eagle flies on Longview Circle off Hilltop Parkway. The 3,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home with a large basement sold for $500,000 on Wednesday, but the just-mailed tax valuation is $680,960.
Although the work done by the assessor’s office to set valuations for tax purposes forms the basis of owners’ 2011 tax bill (due to arrive in January 2012), the assessor does not set taxes and does not have a tax levy in mind while determining values.
“The assessor’s office only assigns value to property, we do not set tax rates or collect the revenues,” Peterson said.
The new taxes won’t be calculated until taxing entities in the county set mill levies in early December.
Is it realistic to think that property owners could see reduced taxes in January? Yes, Peterson said, but don’t look for a direct correlation between changes in your property’s valuation and a change in your taxes. That’s because taxing entities, from governments to school districts and library districts, are subject to the provisions of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights to varying degrees. And different classifications of property are assessed at different assessment ratios.
“If you experienced a 30 percent drop in the value of your property, you’ll see a considerable decline in taxes, but don’t expect a direct correlation to the drop in value,” Peterson said.
May is month to appeal
Property owners who think their real estate has been overvalued for tax purposes and want to appeal that valuation must take the steps to do so this month. After June 1, property owners still could appeal their actual taxes, but that is a different process.
Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson said his office welcomes residents seeking help in understanding how their properties were valued.
“Our staff will provide you with information relevant to your property,” he said.
To successfully appeal property values, owners must be able to show that the assessor’s inventory of the property is incorrect, and for that reason overstates its value. Or, property owners could undertake research to show that the information used to value the property was based on sales or income potential of superior properties.
“A lower value placed on your neighbor’s property is not a basis for a successful appeal,” Peterson said. And he reminded people contemplating an appeal that market data (comparable sales) after June 30, 2010, isn’t applicable because it is outside the state-mandated valuation term.
Peterson said the preferred method of appealing is by email with an attached electronic copy of the notice of value, sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The assessor’s office is in the lower level of the downtown Routt County Courthouse between Fifth and Sixth streets on Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The phone number is 879-870-5544. Visits to the office will be greeted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The office will respond to appeals in writing by June 30. Property owners who are dissatisfied with the results of the appeal can take it to another level by appealing in writing to the County Board of Equalization by July 15. Those secondary appeals should be sent to the BOE (comprising the county commissioners) at P.O. Box 773598, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com