Pitkin County property values dropping | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County property values dropping

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Assessor Tom Isaac

ASPEN – Pitkin County property owners, who mostly saw their property values rise significantly two years ago, are likely to see those values drop when their new notice of valuation arrives in the mail. That does not mean, however, their tax bills will be lowered, the county assessor said.

The notices, which will go out May 2 to about 15,000 property owners in the county, reflect property values as of June 30, 2010. The values assigned by the assessor’s office are based on sales of similar properties, and the real estate market was in a slump at that point.

As a result, most properties have been assigned a value that is “considerably less” than when notices of valuation went out in spring 2009, according to Tom Isaac, county assessor. Property is revalued by the assessor’s office every two years, as required by state law.

“This is the first time in my 20 years that we’ve actually substantially lowered values,” said Isaac from Denver, where he continues to recover from an infected sore.

Once the notices go out, property owners have until June 1 to file an appeal of the assigned value with the assessor. That can be done in person, by mail or fax (but not email).

In 2009, the assessor’s office was swamped with appeals. The notices that year reflected values as of June 30, 2008, before the recession hit, and they had increased dramatically. Property owners balked at residential assessments that were up nearly 40 percent, contending the recession had wiped out the gains of the prior real estate boom.

In 2009, new valuations put the total value of property in the county at $36 billion, up from $26.7 billion in 2008. After appeals and a multitude of hearings, the total value in 2009 dropped to $35.7 billion. New construction boosted the number back up to $36 billion in 2010.

The current total value of property in the county, based on the latest valuations, has not yet been tallied, according to Larry Fite, chief appraiser.

“We won’t have that information until sometime after the dust settles,” he said.

Two years ago, the prospect of rising property taxes associated with rising property values was the concern for many, and some taxing districts ultimately adjusted their mill levies downward rather than collect a windfall in revenues.

Though values are dropping this time around, property owners shouldn’t count on a reduction in their next property tax bill, Isaac said. He expects taxes to remain relatively even.

“To say that just because your values are going down, your taxes are going down is a bit of an overstatement,” he said.

For one thing, some districts that lowered their levy two years ago can now raise them, within established limits, to keep revenues on an even keel, he noted. Other districts have voter approval to collect a certain amount of revenue.

Isaac, who has been out of the office since January, said he hopes to be back in Aspen and back at work in about three weeks. He is being treated for an infected pressure sore and had surgery March 18. Doctors used surrounding tissue and skin to fill the wound, he said.

“If I could feel it, I’d be real miserable,” said Isaac, who is a quadriplegic. He is being treated at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, but keeps in regular contact with his office.

“I’ve gotten a lot of letters, phone calls and visits, but there’s no place like home,” Isaac said. “I’m anxious to get back.”