Property tax bills fall for midvalley residents |

Property tax bills fall for midvalley residents

BASALT – Plummeting property values in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County were finally reflected in tax bills that arrived Tuesday.

Property values generally fell about 35 percent in the part of Eagle County that includes El Jebel, part of Basalt and portions of Missouri Heights when the assessor performed a mandatory revaluation in 2011. The drop will be reflected for the first time in the bills for 2011 taxes due in 2012.

There isn’t a direct correlation in property value decreases and tax bill decreases, Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin said. That’s because some governmental entities have voter permission to adjust their tax rates. Roughly half of the special taxing district in Eagle County have that flexibility, Chapin said. Therefore, tax-bill decreases vary in different parts of the county.

The drop in property valuations also dropped by varying degrees in different neighborhoods. Homes along Homestead Drive and Sopris Drive in Basalt “ballooned” in value during the real estate boom prior to the recession in late 2008, Chapin noted, so their decrease was larger. Areas that he called “blue-collar neighborhoods” didn’t increase as much, so they had more modest declines.

Using the assessor’s website, The Aspen Times checked the changes in tax bills for a handful of midvalley properties and found they fell anywhere from 18.5 to 52 percent.

The owners of a house on Sopris Drive saw their tax bill fall $5,823.36, or 52 percent, from 2011 to 2012. Their property value dropped $1.37 million in 2011, or 60 percent.

The owners of a home in the River Oaks subdivision of Basalt will pay $901 less in property taxes this year, a decrease of 21 percent.

One couple in Sopris Village saw their property value drop 43 percent in 2011, and their tax bill fell 33 percent.

Blue Lake homeowner Garret Brandt said his property tax bill was 21 percent lower in 2012.

“I’m not overly disappointed in that,” he said. His property value had dropped 33 percent, so he felt the correlation was reasonable.

Brandt said the tax relief comes at a good time given the state of the economy.

“I think most people are going to say, ‘Hey, I need all the money I can get right now,'” he said.

But midvalley and downvalley residents also demonstrated last fall that “not everyone is out for themselves,” Brandt said. Voters approved a property tax increase for the Roaring Fork Re-1 school district in November. Proponents said the property tax increase was necessary to partially offset the loss of revenues the district would experience from falling property values.

Missouri Heights homeowner Andy Stone saw his property tax bill fall 18.5 percent.

“I didn’t have a real expectation of what was going to happen,” he said, noting that the process to determine property taxes is “sufficiently complex and a little opaque.”

The lower tax bill was welcomed by Stone, a former editor at The Aspen Times, but was also a cause for concern.

“I am always glad when any of my bills go down,” Stone said. “I do have some concerns for services we all depend on from government.”

The drastic drop in property values means fewer revenues for the taxing districts. Stone said he is concerned about the ability of some of the districts to provide adequate services considering the amount of revenues they lost.

The revenue losses may continue to mount for districts that receive property taxes. The state of Colorado requires new valuations every two years. The new values will be released in May 2013. They will be based on sales made the 18 months prior to June 30, 2012. Chapin said property values in Eagle County continue to drop. He said he anticipates a general decrease of about 20 percent in values, which means another drop of an unknown amount in property tax revenues.

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