Eagle County mulls property tax relief
Aspen, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. ” Lowering the county’s mill levy is one of several options commissioners in Eagle County, Colorado say they will consider to aid residents likely facing higher property tax bills at the beginning of 2010.
Most county residents have received their new property valuations and most went up ” the average increase countywide was 13 percent. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the county includes the El Jebel area and part of Basalt and Missouri Heights.
The assessor’s office has been busy fielding calls from locals wondering how their property could be valued more during a recession. The appraisals, because of state law, were conducted prior to the recession and are a reflection of home values between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008.
The assessments will be used to calculate property taxes residents owe in 2009 and 2010 to be paid in 2010 and 2011.
“We knew this was coming,” Commissioner Jon Stavney said. “It’s painful because it probably doesn’t reflect today’s market.”
The board started discussing what, if anything, to do about the increase prior to the assessor’s office mailing out the new notices.
Lowering the county’s mill levy or offering residents some type of refund are two options being considered, but nothing is likely to be decided until closer to the end of the year, officials said.
And both options present problems, officials said.
Lowering the mill levy is easier than raising it and if the county decided to lower it this year it could be tough to raise in the future, officials said.
“We’re hesitant to reduce the mills,” Stavney said. “Because the way the state is setup, you can’t get that back very easily.”
A mill levy is the amount of money a taxpayer has to pay for every thousand dollars of assessed value on their property. The valuation notices mailed out this month still have to be adjusted by a state-determined figure in order to get a properties assessed value.
Giving residents a refund may also not be ideal, Commissioner Sara Fisher said. The state mandates refunds be offered equally to all property owners. Since 70 percent of the property owners in the county are second-home owners, the majority of the refund money wouldn’t stay in the county, Fisher said.
“Those are the ones we’re most focused on and concerned about,” Fisher said of property owners that live in Eagle County year-round.
The county is also facing a tightening budget and the estimated additional $2 million the county would get from an average property value increase of 13 percent could help.
Earmarking some of the money for specific things like the county’s vehicle replacement fund, which is a couple million dollars short, is a possibility, Fisher said.
“When we look at the reduction in sales tax and see what the impacts may have on services, particularly with ECO Transit, we have to weigh that against the bigger picture of things,” Fisher said.
What the economy does during the next few months will be important, Stavney said.
“We don’t have to decide what we’re going to do until this fall,” Stavney said.
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The blizzards of January and February seem like distant dreams to Colorado water managers. What started as a promising year for water supply — with above-average snowpack as of April 1 — ended Sept. 30 with the entire state in some level of drought.