Special Districts Can Now Mull Their Mills

Special Districts Can Now Mull Their Mills

The total actual value of property in Pitkin County surged almost 72% in 2023 and the total assessed value jumped nearly 57% as the result of state-mandated reappraisals.

Pitkin County government was finally able to release its assessed and actual values for 2023 late last week after resolving most of the record number of 4,712 appeals of protests of new values.

The actual value, also known as market value, soared to $71.03 billion this year from $41.35 billion last year, according to Pitkin County Assessor Deb Bamesberger. That was an increase of $29.68 billion. The actual value was based on sales of comparable properties between Jan. 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.

The assessed value increased to $5.78 billion in 2023 from $3.69 billion in 2022, according to Bamesberger. That was an increase of about $2.1 billion. The assessed value is based on the actual value multiplied by the assessment rates for various property classifications.

Both the actual and assessed values figure into a property owner’s tax bill. The assessed value is multiplied by the mill levy to determine the property tax bill that is due.

Now that Pitkin County has resolved the appeals and established its baseline values, numerous taxing districts will be able to advance further into budgeting for 2024. There has been a lot of apprehension among property owners about tax bills this year because values soared so drastically. The bills for 2023 will be mailed in early 2024.

Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman said in June the high property values were like a “shot across the bow” for many property taxpayers.

There is an assumption that property taxes will surge at a similar clip that actual values rise. However, that will be influenced by the decisions made over the next month by the boards of various special taxing districts. The boards of taxing districts can choose to reap a windfall by keeping the mill levy the same or they can grant a temporary mill levy credit that would result in collecting less of a windfall but reserve the right to return to a high mill levy in future years.

The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District is an interesting case study in the dilemma facing elected boards. The district successfully asked voters to approve a property tax hike in last week’s election to pay off a bond issuance that will be used to expand and remodel the El Jebel fire station.

The fire district’s leadership also has said it will consider using a temporary mill levy credit to reduce the tax burden for its operating fund. Fire Chief Scott Thompson has said on multiple occasions that the fire district’s board of directors is composed of several longtime residents of the district who pay taxes like everybody else and are very aware of the potential for soaring tax bills.

Some taxing districts such as the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District have constituents in both Pitkin and Eagle counties, which further complicated the budget process.

Eagle County’s total actual value increased by $21.61 billion or 54% this year. It increased to $61.67 billion in 2023 from $40.06 billion in 2022, according to Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin.

Eagle County’s total assessed value increased by $1.66 billion or 46% year-over-year. It increased to $5.29 billion from $3.63 billion.

Municipalities, counties and special taxing entities such as fire departments and school districts will hold public hearings on their budgets in mid- to late-November and into early December.

Governments must certify their mill levies by Dec. 15. There are 51 individual taxing districts in Pitkin County, though some apply to small portions of the population.  

Colorado Mountain College’s board of trustees stated early in the budget process that its “intention” is to temporarily reduce CMC’s mill levy to keep revenue growth near inflation at 5.7%. A statement from the college said the goal is “to shield local property owners from the impact of extreme spikes in valuation.”

The town of Basalt’s proposed budget anticipates rising property tax collections in 2024. The draft budget included $1.97 million in property tax revenues in 2024 compared to $1.21 million budgeted for 2023.

Pitkin County hasn’t set its mill levy rate yet, but county commissioners have noted the concerns of taxpayers in numerous budget work sessions. Colorado’s complicated revenue restriction rules would limit Pitkin County to collecting no more than a 5.5% increase in revenues in 2024.


Scott Condon | Aspen Daily News | November 19, 2023

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