Garfield County bringing in tax protest ‘referees’

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Anticipating an onslaught of protests over the 2009 property tax notices now in the mail to Garfield County taxpayers, the Board of County Commissioners are thinking of enlisting a little help to handle the workload.

County Assessor John Gorman has said that residential property values are up as much as 60 percent in the current revaluation, as measured against property values in 2007, the last time the revaluation took place.

State law requires that every two years all taxable property in the state is surveyed to determine its value, which is then used as the basis for statewide tax assessments.

The valuations for residential property are largely based on a comparative analysis of sales in particular neighborhoods and regions around the county, and this year’s tax valuations will be based on sales recorded between Jan. 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.

Due to a variety of factors, including the oil and gas boom and the influx of second-home owners to the area, Garfield County’s property values peaked in mid-2008, Gorman said. He added that they have not fallen much since then, despite the ongoing national and international recession.

“This is, like, the perfect storm,” he told the Post Independent, referring to the boom-time property values and the concurrent economic hardships being felt by many local families hit by job losses.

Gorman said the county expects protests every revaluation cycle, and that they number “maybe in the hundreds” in normal years, with “under 20” going to a full appeal hearing before the county commissioners sitting as the Board of Equalization.

But this year, the number of protests is expected to rise, and Gorman has recommended commissioners appoint hearing officers or “referees” to help with the workload.

County attorney Don DeFord, who will be discussing the issue with commissioners on Monday, said the county did call up some hearing officers in 2007 but never actually put them to work.

He said the county has never had to make use of referees for tax protest hearings, but conceded that this might be the year for it.

The county commissioners will meet on Monday, starting at 8 a.m. at 108 8th St., room 100, in Glenwood Springs.