Assessor’s inexperience and county’s growth force the need for a new hire
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The Garfield County Assessor’s Office won approval this week to hire a new appraiser, and one of the reasons is the inexperience of the new assessor.John Gorman, a Democrat who defeated incumbent Republican assessor Shannon Hurst in November’s election, said his lack of training contributes to the need for the new employee, and so does the continuing rapid growth within the county.The county has 32,000 properties that the assessor’s office monitors, compared to 23,000 10 years ago. A decade ago the county had about $444 million in total assessed value, compared to $2.8 billion today.Yet the office’s staffing has changed little. Ten years ago it had six full-time appraisers and one three-quarter-time appraiser – numbers that remain unchanged today. However, it also now has a full-time oil and gas appraiser and a contract commercial appraiser.
Gorman and deputy assessor Lisa Warder told county commissioners this week that the loss of Hurst also contributes to the need for a new appraiser.”My predecessor had huge experience and was very talented in every aspect of that office,” Gorman said.Hurst is a certified residential appraiser. Gorman is working to become a basic registered appraiser. That means he was unable to do any appraisal work himself as his office rushed this year to finish the reappraisal process it undertakes every two years.Warder said that because of Hurst’s departure, and the fact that Warder was called away from appraisal duties as she helped Gorman with other things after he took office, it became very difficult for the office to complete its appraisal process this year. That’s the first time she’s seen that happen in 11 years in the office, she said.Gorman called Hurst’s departure “certainly a great loss of competency for the office.”County Commissioner Trési Houpt, a Democrat, told Gorman that he brings other talents to the job.”I don’t want the wrong message to get across, the message that you relayed,” she said.In a later interview, Gorman said he believes voters had other good reasons to elect him to office.”My determination to really get after the oil and gas industry is probably a huge reason,” he said.Gorman campaigned largely on the promise of working to make sure the industry is held fully accountable from a tax perspective. Though his lack of an appraisal background is contributing to the need to hire another staff member, he thinks the financial gains from the crackdown on the energy industry will offset that expense by “a good amount,” he said.Gorman believes the industry may be underpaying taxes on gas production by millions of dollars.He said he’s worried whether his office will have enough appraisers to handle an increasing workload even if he gets “up to speed” in appraising. His office is projecting that in five years its appraising staff may need to be 50 percent larger than it is today.County Commissioner John Martin, a Republican, voiced support for the immediate addition of an appraiser based on the growth in assessed properties and valuation.”It takes a toll on the people who are there and I think you need a little help,” he told Gorman.Gorman is bringing in the state Division of Property Taxation to help conduct a work force study this month.While he thinks becoming trained in appraising is important, he also believes his job is much broader. He said it involves things such as communications with commissioners and other county departments, dealing with policy, planning for the future, handling personnel issues, working with state taxation officials, and pursuing the gas valuation project.”At some point, and I’m not sure what that point is … the position at the top as the office gets larger becomes more and more managerial than it is actually functioning as an appraiser,” he said. “I think I must become well-schooled in that profession but I am finding so far that there have been many other things that have taken my attention and time that are important but they’re not appraisal.”Contact Dennis Webb: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.