Pitkin County commissioners want a meeting with assessor
July 23, 2009
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners want to talk again with Assessor Tom Isaac about how his office came up with the values it has assigned to properties throughout the county.
Commissioners, convening Wednesday in their role as the county’s Board of Equalization, were scheduled to ratify slightly more than 100 determinations made by several officers who have been hearing property value appeals since July 5. In the first batch of determinations, hearing officers agreed to adjust the value assigned by the assessor’s office in 30 cases.
Declining to take any action, commissioners instead said they’d like to meet with Isaac next week to review the methodology his office used in assigning new values in the first place.
“I just think there’s a flaw in the methodology the assessor’s office used,” said Commissioner George Newman, who said the real estate industry professionals he has spoken with contend appreciation slacked off in parts of the county in late 2007 and early 2008, and that values assigned by the assessor’s office are too high.
The valuations were based on what was occurring in the local real estate market in the 18 months leading up to June 30, 2008, according to Isaac. Valuation notices went out in the spring of 2009, leading some 4,500 property owners to file protests with the assessor’s office.
The assessor’s office adjusted 1,699 property values based on those protests. The next step for property owners who remained unsatisfied is the Board of Equalization review. Those hearings are ongoing; an officer reviews each appealed case and makes a determination to either adjust the property value or not. Ultimately, commissioners must ratify those determinations in a process that must conclude by Aug. 5.
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Though time is short, commissioners called for a meeting with Isaac. The higher property tax bills that will result from increased values are a matter of concern for many property owners, given the current economic climate, noted Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
The legal issues involved mean discussion of the appreciation factor applied by the assessor’s office should take place behind closed doors, advised assistant county attorney Chris Seldin, but the talk with Isaac should occur in public, he said.
“We may not agree with him, but it would be good to hear from him again – his reasoning,” Newman said.
“I understand his methodology. The question is whether you agree with it,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, suggesting commissioners may not be qualified to decide the matter without outside counsel.
“I just don’t know that we could sit here and say we think the appreciation stopped,” she said.
Hatfield said he simply wants to have the discussion.
“I’m in no way suggesting we’re even going to challenge the assessor,” he said.
Commissioners hope to meet with Isaac on Tuesday, July 28. Isaac said Wednesday afternoon he would be happy to review his methodology with elected officials next week.
The valuations assigned by his office were reviewed in an annual state audit that took place in the spring, Isaac said. The state auditor’s preliminary finding concluded the office’s work was in compliance with state procedures and guidelines, he said.