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Vail Daily letter: Fox guarding coop in case of property taxes

Fredric Butler
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

Oliver Holmes once opined that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Here in Eagle County we can assume that the following provisions of the Colorado Constitution apply to our property rights as well: that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law (Section 25 of Article I); that each property tax levy shall be uniform upon all real and personal property; that the actual value of all real and personal property not exempt from taxation shall be determined under general laws, which shall prescribe such methods and regulations as shall secure just and equalized valuations for assessments of all real property not exempt from taxation (Section 3 of Article X); that valuations for assessment shall be based on appraisals by assessing officers to determine the actual value of property in accordance with provisions of law; and that each tract or parcel of land and each town or city lot shall be separately appraised and valued (Section 39-5-104 of the Colorado Revised Statutes).

These are high-minded phrases meant to assure us that we are being treated fairly by our elected officials (state legislators, county commissioners, assessors and the like) and that considering the times we live in the taxes we pay on our properties are just, relevant and based upon fair and actual values at the time.

Now we find ourselves living in a recession when property values in the valley have been in a free-fall during 2009 for want of demand and available financing from bailed-out banks and those less connected. We find that unemployment has jeopardized the homeowners’ ability to meet their mortgage obligations, notwithstanding having been stimulated by Washington. And last but foremost, we find that sales of property throughout the valley have diminished to such an extent that there are no meaningful comparable transactions available upon which to even value our properties in a meaningful way.

Now, a reasonable person would expect that the current taxes assessed upon such distraught properties would also follow suit, owing to the diminished valuations, and where there is a lack of sales of comparable properties in the area, one would also inquire as to what information upon which our commissioners and/or assessor rely to justify their so called just and equalized valuations for taxation purposes.

The valuations of properties in today’s market are based upon sales of so called “comparable” properties from a different era (prior year’s), at a time when demand was there, prices were stable and sales were being made .

Just how relevant are these valuations and assessments to the present?

I need but cite one case in point about a Wildridge lot’s tax assessment increasing in the year 2009 (the year of recession and depression) from $1,767 to $7,232. What comparable sales in 2009 did the unbiased assessor have at his disposal to arrive at this inane levy?

I would submit, without qualification or equivocation, it is axiomatic that a just tax upon any property must be substantiated by a valuation determined from comparable sales in the market at the time such tax is assessed and levied.

It is admittedly not, and therefore it is unjust and confiscatory. Under the present schemes and formulae of taxation, private property rights are being destroyed as Holmes once alluded.

I, for one, am simply outraged by the tyranny of the taxman”(IRS, Colorado Department of Revenue, commissioners, assessor, et al) who would abuse their representative authority,and work such an injustice upon those who have no qualms about paying a fair and just tax.

And I can be assured that were you to vent such rage upon your representatives, you would get the standard retort: We are sorry, but our hands are tied by the law!

Imagine your representative “tying his own hands” by the law he himself fomented. This explanation simply won’t sell to an intelligent citizen (maybe to a subject or ward of the state).

Why have not our commissioners in the past recognized the prospect of such an abuse, let alone even endeavoring to rectify it? It is because there exists an inherent bias or bent to increase tax revenues for the coffers of government to fund the social schemes of those in power at the time. Then how objective can an appraiser who works for the biased assessor or commissioners be in valuing your property?

Now, the people of Eagle County can either submit to this injustice or take a proactive stance and remedy the problem themselves by giving emphatic direction to their representatives. Otherwise, stand back and find out just what people will quietly submit to and you will have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, to partially paraphrase what Frederick Douglass once said, a la Lorenti’s prior letter in the Daily.

If the people’s representatives cannot recognize the injustice or if they do, but take no meaningful action, then be reminded of the provisions of Article XXI of the Colorado Constitution: Every elective public officer of the state of Colorado may be recalled from office at any time by the registered electors entitled to vote for a successor of such incumbent through the procedure and in the manner herein provided for, which procedure shall be known as the recall, and shall be in addition to and without excluding any other method of removal provided by law.

Fredric Butler


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