No relief yet in property tax bills |

No relief yet in property tax bills

Roaring Fork Valley homeowners shouldn’t expect property tax relief when their new bills arrive in the mail this month.

Property taxes are expected to be about the same in most of the valley and slightly higher in parts of the upper valley. The tax bills are based on property valuations that were set prior to the recession and collapse of the real estate market. New valuations will be mailed to property owners in May, and that will affect tax bills for 2011 due in 2012, said Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin.

Eagle County’s tax bills started arriving Saturday. The Pitkin County treasurer’s office said bills will be mailed this week and will be finished by Monday, Jan. 24. Garfield County will mail bills by the end of the month.

Chapin said his office has received some telephone calls from residents who expected their tax bills to drop since property values have taken a beating over the last two years. He said he has explained to them that pre-recession values are still being used to calculate property taxes.

Colorado law requires county governments to reappraise property every other year. The last reappraisal was in May 2008. That reflected market conditions between Jan. 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008, before the recession hit western Colorado full force.

Tax bills for 2009, which were paid in 2010, soared from the previous year because of drastic real estate appreciation during the boom years.

“By and large, taxes remained the same [for 2010],” Chapin said.

A homeowner in the Roaring Fork Valley floor in Eagle County saw property taxes go up $15 for 2010 compared to 2009. Another homeowner in Missouri Heights also saw a $20 increase in his tax bill.

In Pitkin County, the overall amount of taxes to be paid for 2010 during this year is expected to increase 5.5 percent, based on the mill levies set by the various taxing districts. Voters approved tax increases to expand Aspen Valley Hospital and to strengthen the Aspen School District’s financial position in expectation of fewer state funds.

Although the tax bills are relatively stable this year, change is on the horizon.

County assessor staffs throughout Colorado are already working on the reappraisal that will reflect the real estate collapse. “They’re pounding out numbers right now,” Chapin said of his staff.

The new valuations will be based on market conditions between Jan. 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, during the height of the recession. The new valuations will be mailed to property owners on May 1.

Based on preliminary data, it looks like values in Eagle County overall will drop between 30 and 35 percent, Chapin said, “and probably more in the Basalt area.”

Property values appreciated by greater amounts in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county in the middle of the last decade because of the influence of Aspen, Chapin said. As a result, the El Jebel-Basalt area has taken a bigger hit in property values since the recession, he said.

Property values are expected to drop at least 35 percent in the Roaring Fork portion of Eagle County when the new valuations are released in May, Chapin said.

But relief for property owners will create headaches for taxing districts. Many district administrators are already bracing for drastically reduced property tax revenues one year from now. The Basalt Regional Library, for example, has reduced hours and cut staff in anticipation of a 35 percent loss in property tax revenues, said Kristin Becker, executive director.

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