Property taxes in Pitkin County going up 5.5 percent |

Property taxes in Pitkin County going up 5.5 percent

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Overall, property taxes to be paid in Pitkin County are going up 5.5 percent, based on a lengthy list of individual mill levies that were ratified Friday by county commissioners.

In total, Pitkin County property owners will pay $116,827,124 in taxes, divided up among 48 different entities, including local governments, school districts, fire districts, Colorado Mountain College, local libraries, Aspen Valley Hospital and a host of small metropolitan districts that serve specific neighborhoods.

The tax total, up from $110,777,212 a year ago, is based on total property value in the county of $3.6 billion.

The taxes, for 2010, are payable in 2011; tax bills will go out in the mail in early January.

Next year’s tax bill will reflect tax increases for several districts, but little change in property values. While property values jumped considerably with 2009’s revaluation, those values remain constant for the 2010 tax year. When the assessor’s office begins revaluations again next year, as part of the state’s two-year cycle, local values are projected to drop roughly 30 percent on average, as a result of declining real estate prices.

The coming tax bills will include tax increases approved by voters for Aspen Valley Hospital, the Aspen School District, Town of Snowmass Village and the Starwood Metro District. Anyone who pays taxes into any of those districts will see an increase.

Several tax districts that have been exempted by voters from the limitations of the Colorado Taxpapers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR, will voluntarily collect less than they could for a second straight year, including the city of Aspen and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. When property values shot up last year, the districts used a temporary credit to reduce their mill levies in response to calls for tax relief.

The county Treasurer’s Office collects the taxes for all taxing districts, and then disperses the revenue. Because taxpayers write a check to the county, they sometimes mistakenly assume the county is collecting all of the money for its own operations, noted John Redmond, finance director.

“Everybody thinks the county is getting all the dough,” he said. “The general fund portion is 5.3 percent of the total we collect, meaning it’s about 5 cents on the dollar that’s going to the general fund.”

The general fund, supported by $6.2 million in property tax revenue, covers the cost of county government, social services, and road and bridge expenses.

Add up all county taxes, however, including mill levies for the general fund, Open Space and Trails, the library district, the Healthy Community Fund and the TV translator system, and the county’s share of the property tax pie climbs to 21.2 percent – or about $24.7 million. Open Space and Trails alone will collect $12.3 million.

The Aspen School District collects the most property taxes of any single entity in the county, with $27.8 million for 2010.

“That’s sizable,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.

Colorado Mountain College will collect $14.7 million within the county, and the city of Aspen will collect almost $6.5 million, which represents nearly a 5 percent decrease from the city’s 2009 property tax collections.

Aspen Valley Hospital, with a voter-authorized tax increase to fund its expansion, will collect $7 million, up from $3.5 million.

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