Garfield County assessor: Property owners will be surprised | VailDaily.com

Garfield County assessor: Property owners will be surprised

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Glenwood Springs , CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Property values are up by as much as 60 percent this year in certain parts of Garfield County, according to the county assessor’s office, which began sending out 2009 property tax notices Friday.

The increases come at a time when the local and regional economy is slumping as a consequence of the global recession, and many families are struggling to make ends meet because of layoffs, wage cuts and reduced hours in many businesses.

Given the slumping economy, property owners are expected to react with disbelief and anger when they get their tax notices, conceded assessor John Gorman, who has been working with other assessors around the Western Slope to figure out how to deal with the anticipated backlash.

“There was a perception that people were going to be aghast at the results of our reappraisal,” Gorman said of a recent meeting of assessors.

Noting that the protest period for taxpayers to object to their valuations starts today and ends on June 1, Gorman said that in a normal year, his office processes formal protests that number “maybe in the hundreds.” But only a relatively small percentage of protests typically go to a formal hearing before the county’s board of equalization, which basically is the Board of County Commissioners.

This year, he said, the number could grow dramatically.

Gorman explained that 2009 is the year for the regular biannual reassessment of properties, and that this year’s valuations will be based on the actual sales figures for homes sold between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, a lag time that is built into the state’s tax codes.

And, he noted, “June 30, 2008, was, like, the top of the market for years,” a point at which home prices had been rising dramatically in response to the twin influences of the national housing boom and the oil and gas boom in Garfield County.

That the recession is now believed to actually have begun well before the middle of 2008, and has worsened dramatically ever since, is not a factor in the property tax calculations.

“This is, like, the perfect storm,” said Gorman, referring to the boom-like values of homes at a time when most homeowners feel their property has lost considerable value.

But, in fact, the average prices of homes in the county have not mirrored the downturn in the local retail, building, skiing and other sectors of the economy, Gorman said.

Sales have nearly slowed to a standstill, he said, “But when we do see sales, the prices haven’t come down,” at least not in the medium-priced range. The higher-priced homes have taken more of a hit in terms of having their price tags drop, he said.

In a memo sent to Park County officials, who asked about the Garfield County experience, the assessor’s office reported that with Garfield County’s “unprecedented sales volume” in 2007, the overall increases in residential property values were in the 30-40 percent range, on the average.

But in one part of the county, the town of Carbondale and its immediate environs, the memo stated, “the increase … with this reappraisal was between 50 and 60 percent.”

In commercial values, according to the memo, the increase was as much as 70 percent for vacant land in the western part of the county, largely due to the oil and gas industry. For service buildings and warehouses, the office reported, values went up by 50-60 percent.

Overall, the memo stated, “Garfield County has had a very healthy real estate market.”

For further information, contact the assessor’s office by e-mail at jgorman@garfield-county.com or by calling 945-9134.

jcolson@postindependent.com




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