Garfield County property tax protests down after record year in 2009 |

Garfield County property tax protests down after record year in 2009

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County is expecting a fairly normal year for property valuation protests, following a record of nearly 3,000 tax protests last summer.”That was the most we’ve ever had,” Garfield County Assessor John Gorman said. “But we also have the most people and the most individual properties in the county that we’ve ever had.”Last year’s high number of protests was also due to the fact that it was a re-valuation year, which happens every two years.However, the values set for property tax purposes last year were based on property values as of June 30, 2008.”There was still of frenzy of real estate appreciation in the local market right up until about that time,” Gorman said.It wasn’t until after the valuations were set that the bottom fell out of the market.In this “intervening year,” as it’s called, valuations remain the same for purposes of figuring a property owner’s 2010 taxes (2011 tax bill).Once the Board of County Commissioners convenes as the Board of Equalization (BOE) in late July and early August to hear this year’s protests, the assessor’s office begins the process to determine new property valuations for 2011. Those values will be based on the level of value as of this coming June 30.”In August we’ll be done with all the protest hearings, and this office and the appraisers go into full gear re-appraising every property in the county,” Gorman explained.Following the six- to eight-month re-appraisal process, new valuation notices will be mailed out to each residential and commercial property owner next May.”This will be the value used to figure your 2011 taxes [due in 2012],” Gorman said.Assessor’s offices around Colorado were criticized last year when property valuations used to assess property taxes went up, at a time when the housing market was in a free fall.However, because of the two-year cycle, it wasn’t as simple as lowering valuations to match the new market reality, Gorman said.”People were coming to us saying, ‘why don’t you just lower our values?'” he said. “Well, we can’t do that.”If a county acted independently to lower property valuations, the state Division of Property Taxation would intervene to reset the values. Not only would valuations return to where they were, the county would be charged for the state’s re-appraisal.”So, we have every reason to get the values right the first time,” Gorman said. “We do try to base our opinion on rock solid hard facts.”Still, the county does see a number of valuation protests every year, including in intervening years. Gorman’s office was still tallying the number of protests for this year – protests were to be post-marked by June 1 – but he was anticipating less than 500.Garfield County also had six appeal cases held over from last year related to personal property owned by oil and gas companies. Five of those cases have been proposed for settlement through the state’s Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) process. They will be considered at this Monday’s regular BOCC meeting.The cases involve personal property owned by ETC Canyon Pipeline, Encana Oil & Gas, Bill Barrett Corp., Enterprise Gas Processing LLC, and Noble Energy, Inc.Property valuation protests are first handled by the county assessor’s office, which makes a determination whether the original value was correct or whether it needs to be adjusted. If a property owner is still unsatisfied, they can appeal the decision to the BOE (county commissioners).Property owners can further appeal through binding arbitration, district court or the BAA.”It they don’t like what the BAA does, they can go to the [state] Supreme Court,” Gorman

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