Letters to the Editor
Conservative viewI have been asked so many times. Why would you want to be an Eagle County commissioner? I think originally God placed being an Eagle County commissioner on my heart because of my close association with many of Eagle Counties founding seniors and my willingness to champion that heritage.Looking into this idea further I became convinced that the good common sense of that heritage will not be heard if we do not have a candidate with a strong voice representing conservative ideals.Eagle County is changing and if we are to believe what we are told, 70 percent of our county is liberal. Two of our county commissioners are liberal. If we elect a third, what has become the “still, small voice” of conservative thinking will be silenced.Liberal thinking attempts to guarantee outcomes for all of us by using rules, regulations and top-down penalties. The idea is that this is the way to create a better quality of life for all of us. Conservative thinking attempts to provide an opportunity for a better quality of life for all of us by encouraging personal responsibility, respect for one another’s ideas, incentives and plain old common sense. I think we must keep these conservative ideals on the table for balance. I want to make sure that happens.Hugo BensonGypsumBenson is candidate for Eagle County commissioner.Never saw it beforeThis letter is regarding the Vail Daily article, “Mack disputes claim made by ex-employee” written by Scott Miller on July 3.. My reason for writing is to clarify some points in the article and to assure the readers that I answered all of Mr. Miller’s questions truthfully. I was pleased to read in Mr. Miller’s article that his research had found another person (the former deputy assessor) who corroborated my answers to Mr. Miller’s questions. I applaud the Vail Daily and Mr. Miller’s willingness to broach a tough subject.The article states that the Forstmanns’ Beaver Creek property tax bill for 2003 was about $35 less than 2002. While that is accurate the actual tax savings for 2003 and 2004 was $1,777.20 each year for a total of $3,554.40 for the two-year assessment cycle. However, the real issue is not whether the tax savings are one dollar or thousands of dollars. The real issue is did an elected official use their office to influence the property tax amount for an individual property owner.Just the facts:A county appraiser, during the 2003 countywide reappraisal, valued the property (R011607) for $2,585,950, which would result in a tax bill of $14,841.40.The property was appealed by the owner at the assessor level in May of 2003. A staff appraiser reviewed the property value and denied the appeal.The owner elected to further the appeal in July of 2003 to the county Board of Equalization. A hearing officer heard the appeal, reviewed the data, and denied the appeal leaving the value at $2,585,950. The Eagle County commissioners approved the hearing officer’s decision to deny the appeal.The property owner elected not to proceed to the next level of appeal.That, dear readers, should have been the end of the story, but it was not to be so. In August and early September of 2003 Joyce Mack, the assessor, frequently jawboned, cajoled, pleaded to the deputy assessor (Mark Chapin) and myself to find a way to reduce the Forstmanns’ property value. We both gave her the same answer. There was no basis to change the property value.Ms. Mack would not take no for answer. The value was reduced by a staff appraiser on Sept. 17, 2003, to $2,275,590, which would result in a tax bill of $13,033.20 or the tax savings I listed above of $1,777.20 for each of the next two years. The appraiser also placed a note in the electronic file indicating the change was at the request of the assessor. In all my years at the county Assessor’s Office I do not recall any other instance where a property was lowered in value after a denial decision by the county Board of Equalization when no further appeal was made by the property owner. This case is unique.I thought at the time it was very odd that the assessor would take such a personal interest in one specific property. I do not recall Ms. Mack being interested in lowering the value for any other property owners. What I did not know at the time but learned recently was that the Forstmanns’ contributed $1,000 to Ms. Macks’ election campaign.I would like to be very clear that I do not think the Forstmanns did anything wrong. They can contribute to any election campaign they choose and it is certainly their right to appeal their property value if they believe it is not valued correctly. Do I think the assessor acted improperly? Well it doesn’t really matter what I think. The public is entitled to the information in this letter, since it is all in the public record, and the public can draw their own conclusions.Jon HarrisonVail, Colorado
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