Gunnison County property tax bills arrive in local mailboxes

Reflect new valuation

If death and taxes are the only things guaranteed, one side of that promise just got a whole lot more expensive. County tax bills were sent to county property owners by January 31, and  local residents may be shocked by the hefty bill that accompanied newly assessed property valuations.

 

 

 

The increase in taxes shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, considering the assessed value for all county property leaped 54 percent since the last county assessment. Still, the north end of the valley has been particularly hard hit, with Crested Butte seeing a whopping 63 percent increase in property tax revenue and a stratospheric 84 percent rise in Mt. Crested Butte.
Taxes are assessed over two consecutive years ending in even numerals, and the last assessment—from June 30, 2004 to July 1, 2006—coincided with a steep increase in local real estate values. "Remember of course, the ski area sold in 2004," says Gunnison County deputy assessor Vicki Hildreth.
The levied tax depends on the type of property and its location, according to Gunnison County assessor Kristi McFarland. The valuations are based on what similar properties in similar locations are selling for.
The highest levies are assigned to vacant, industrial and commercial properties, which are taxed at a rate derived by multiplying the actual value by 29 percent. Residential property taxes are limited 7.96 percent as a result of the 1982 Gallagher amendment, passed by the Colorado electorate in order to rein in skyrocketing taxes due to property appreciation.
Agricultural land is levied according to its production value. But in order to take advantage of agricultural rates, the land must support working agriculture, says Hildreth.
"As long as you have a valid ‘meets the law’ agricultural use, you can qualify for ag status," she said. She added that having a few horses for recreational riding would not meet the necessary standard.
McFarland says different taxing districts require different fees according to amenities provided. For example, a Crested Butte resident can expect to pay taxes levied by the county and municipality, as well as taxing authorities like the Gunnison RE1J School District and the Fire District.
Each year, taxing authorities such as county commissioners, city councils and school boards hold budget meetings to determine the amount of the tax levied to residents within their jurisdictions for the services provided. "Then the taxing entities submit their levies to the county for collection," said McFarland.
County finance director Linda Nienhueser said the different taxing authorities can determine whether to keep their current mil levy rate or reduce it based assessed value of the property within their district. The Skyland District and the East River Sanitation District chose to lock in their mil levies in spite of the drastic increase in valuation.
"That’s why those property owners are seeing some of the largest increases in their tax rates," Nienhueser said. Both districts will see an increase of more than 70 percent in property tax revenues this year.
In 1992 Colorado voters adopted the TABOR amendment that, like the Gallagher amendment, limited the state government’s ability to retain windfalls from property reassessments. However, many taxing districts, including Gunnison County and the local municipalities, have since voted to opt out of such restrictions.
The upshot, according to McFarland, is that voters must be vigilant about how much money tax authorities retain. "It’s up to the citizens to regulate," she says.
McFarland says the actual valuation can be appealed; if a property owner wishes to appeal the valuation, the assessor’s office will respond in writing by the end of June with a Notice of Determination. If the appellate is not satisfied with the assessor’s decision, he/she may make a written appeal by June 15, and the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners will decide the valuation of the property in their capacity as the Gunnison Board of Equalization.
Hildreth says the office’s appraisers sometimes miss something that might compromise the value of a property, in which case they will reassess. "You may have something that really compromises the property that we didn’t see, like a utility easement," says Hildreth.
Both Hildreth and McFarland urge people with questions to contact the county assessor’s office. "We encourage folks to talk to us," says McFarland.
The assessors say a wealth of information can be found on their website at: http://www.gunnisoncounty.org/assessor.html

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