Assessor’s Office Scrambles to Get Appeal Answers Out by Friday Deadline

Assessor’s Office Scrambles to Get Appeal Answers Out by Friday Deadline

Days from their deadline on Friday to send out the last of the notices of determination, the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office is processing a record-breaking number of appeals to property value assessments. 

And to further complicate matters, Pitkin County Assessor Deb Bamesberger said that her office has not received mail from the post office in the past two weeks. They expect more protests in the mail they have yet to receive.

“We should have a bunch of mail. And the mail we’re expecting, of course, are more protests. And those protests have to be entered and decided by Friday,” she said. “We don’t even have them yet.”

A list of received appeals is available at the assessor’s website. Property owners also may email their appeal to the Assessor’s Office or drop it off in-person. 

Still, if the office receives an appeal postmarked by June 8, the deadline to submit an appeal, they will have to honor it. How her office will do that, Bamesberger said, she is not yet sure. 

The Aspen Post Office could not be reached for comment by press time.

Sticker shock

As of Tuesday afternoon, 4,715 appeals were filed following property valuations that averaged about 92% jump in residential property value county wide, which appears to be the highest in the state. There are 16,915 properties in Pitkin County. The vast majority of appeals have come from residential property, Bamesberger said.

But applying an average to the jump in property valuations county-wide gives Assessor’s Office workers pause, as each area of the county varies in the market trends used to calculate assessed value. 

The process works like this: The Assessor’s Office compiles all real-estate sales from Jan. 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022 in an area of Pitkin County. The outliers are cut, then they map the appreciation (or depreciation) in value. The slope of the line of sales across time is added to the original property value in January 2021 18 times for the 18-month period.

“Our numbers are usually like 0.02 to 0.04 increase, not 4.2. It’s a huge increase this year,” Bamesberger said. “But it’s based on the sales we have to use the sales that occurred during that period.”

For single-family homes in the county, the assessed areas and their market trend rates in Pitkin County include:

  • Aspen (Aspen, East, West, Red Mountain, Starwood, Castle Creek, Maroon Creek): 4.1%
  • Snowmass Village & Brush Creek: 4.2%
  • Old Snowmass: 4.0%
  • Basalt: 4.0%
  • Crystal River: 3.5%

And for condos:

  • Aspen: 4.2%
  • Snowmass Village: 4.5%
  • Basalt: no trend
  • Downvalley: no trend

For commercial property, the calculation is income based. This process is entirely mandated by state law. 

About 3,000 notices of determination, or decisions on appeals to property value assessments at the county level, have been sent out so far, according to Bamesberger.

Historically, the Assessor’s Office grants about 25% of appeals received. This year, she said, she estimates about 50% of appeals are granted by her office.

Those denied may take their protest to the county Board of Equalization — where hearing officers hired by the county commissioners mediate between the Assessor’s Office appraiser and the taxpayer. 

With the volume of appeals, she said, those hearings could run as late as October, as they did in 2009 during the Great Recession. And the county was only able to hire three hearing officers, who each can only mediate three 20-minute sessions per hour. 

Beyond that, an owner could take the issue to the Board of Assessment Appeals in Denver or District Court.

Still, property tax increases are unlikely to rise in congruence with assessed value due to local and state revenue restrictions. And recent state legislation, part of which will go to voters as a ballot issue this November, aims to ease potential financial strain on property owners.

Uncertainty in numbers

Two bills recently passed the General Assembly that aim to lessen the burden on property taxpayers statewide. 

Senate Bill 238 lowered the residential assessment rate for the 2023 tax year, part of the equation used to calculate actual value of a property, to 6.765% from 6.95%. The assessment rate for renewable energy and agriculture property is 26.4%. For commercial/industrial property and vacant land, the rate is 27.9%, down from 29%.

It also will slice the actual value of commercial real property by $30,000 and of residential real property by $15,000.

Bamesberger said that Pitkin County computers still calculate based on the 6.95% rate but will be updated later this summer.

But this November, voters could elect to alter state property tax law again through Proposition HH, or Senate Bill 303, which goes further in effect and timeline to reduce property actual value, assessment rates, and introduces a way for the state to reimburse local governments for lost property tax revenue through the reallocation of TABOR funds. 

Either way, Bamesberger said her office will be working beyond capacity to meet the series of deadlines in this remarkable year for Colorado property taxes. 

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