Overall property taxes drop in Pitkin County
December 21, 2011
ASPEN – Property tax collections for close to 50 taxing districts in Pitkin County will total $103.1 million in 2011, down 12 percent from 2010.
Bills for the 2011 taxes will go out in mid-January, and not everyone will see a decrease despite the overall decline in collections.
County commissioners on Wednesday certified the mill levies for 48 taxing districts, including area school districts, Aspen Valley Hospital, Colorado Mountain College, municipalities, library districts, a multitude of water and sanitation districts, metropolitan districts and others.
Property owners pay into various taxing districts, depending on the location of their property. Some districts encompass the entire county, while others collect money in areas as small as a particular subdivision.
Though the county sends out the tax bills, commissioners have oversight only over the county’s levies. Most of the tax revenues that come in to the county treasurer are then distributed to other districts and governments.
County core services, including its general fund, road and bridge fund and social services, will collect 6.4 percent of the $103.1 million total. Its Open Space and Trails program, which has its own tax, will collect 10.2 percent of the total, while the Healthy Community Fund will take in 1.5 percent of the overall sum.
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The Aspen School District will collect 22.5 percent of the total, while the portion of the Roaring Fork School District located in the county will take in 8.2 percent. Aspen Valley Hospital will collect 7.1 percent and CMC will get 10.7 percent.
Though overall property tax collections are down 12 percent, overall property values in Pitkin County have dropped about 25 percent – from $3.6 billion to $2.7 billion.
The decline in property values have hit the school districts significantly – Aspen School District will collect $4.6 million less in 2011 than it did in 2010, while CMC’s tax take will drop by $3.6 million.
Other taxing districts, including the county’s general fund, are subject to the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which limits increases in tax collections when property values are climbing, but protects tax revenues when property values plummet. The county’s levy to support its general fund, road and bridge, and social services, which is subject to TABOR, will increase 6.2 percent in 2011.
What it all means for some property owners is an increase in taxes even though the value of their property is down.
“In a declining market, it can be frustrating. The value of your property has dropped and yet your property taxes are going up,” said John Redmond, county finance director.
In the city of Aspen’s West End neighborhood, for example, a home valued at $3.7 million in 2011 will pay $9,402 in 2011 property taxes (with the bill that arrives next month). In 2010, the home was valued at $4.4 million and its tax bill was $9,354, according to records on file at the county assessor’s office.
The home’s value has slipped, but its tax bill is going up because the overall mill levy – collections for all of the taxing districts into which the property owner pays – will increase from 26.708 in 2010 to 31.653 in 2011 – an increase of 18.5 percent.
The property’s value would have to drop by more than 18.5 percent before the tax bill would drop.
On the other hand, an Aspen condo valued at $1.125 million in 2011 will see a 2011 property tax bill of $2,835. In 2010, the condo was valued at $1.83 million and saw a tax bill of $3,910. The condo’s value dropped about 27.5 percent. Because its value declined by more than 18.5 percent (the increase in the overall mill levy), its owner will see a drop in the property tax bill.
In the midvalley, where property values generally dropped more substantially with the latest revaluation, property owners may be more likely to see a drop in their tax bills.
A Basalt single-family home valued at $582,000 in 2011, for example, will see a tax bill of $3,477. In 2010, the home was valued at $878,400, and the tax bill was $4,248. The drop in that property’s tax bill comes despite a voter-approved tax increase for the Roaring Fork School District.
What property owners see on their tax bills will vary throughout the county, predicted Larry Fite, chief appraiser with the assessor’s office.
“It really is property-specific – how much your value went down compared to the mill levy,” he said.