Vail Resorts challenges assessor on taxes
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Vail Resorts is challenging the county’s tax valuation on several big facilities, seeking a refund on commercial property taxes it paid for the Keystone Conference Center and the Keystone Lodge and Spa for the 2006 tax year.
Vail Resorts is the county’s single biggest taxpayer. If the Broomfield-based resort company wins its challenge next week before the State Board of Assessment Appeals, Summit County would have to repay about $145,000 of revenues that already have been collected.
Vail Resorts is also challenging the county’s valuation of its gondola in Breckenridge, claiming that the Town of Breckenridge’s $6 million contribution toward the project was a gift and shouldn’t be counted toward the property’s assessed value.
According to the county’s assessment formula, as outlined by state law, the value of the gondola is based on the cost of the gondola itself, the installation and the cost of freight, totaling $17.5 million.
The gondola valuation issue has not been scheduled for a state hearing yet.
Vail Resorts issued a short statement: “Like all property owners, when a valuation is placed on our owned property for tax purposes, we will protest that valuation if we do not think it’s fair.”
“It’s been a fight,” said Summit County Assessor Beverly Breakstone, describing the county’s efforts to get accurate information to determine taxable values of the properties in question. “We don’t want Summit County to lose this revenue.”
In 2005, the resort’s conference center was valued at $10.5 million.
During the subsequent assessment in 2007, the value climbed to $15.2 million, “after the discovery of omitted development density we had missed previously,” Breakstone said.
The county included adjacent land with significant development rights in the valuation, according to Breakstone.
But Vail Resorts claims a $9.2 million taxable value for the conference center.
Going back to the previous assessment cycle in 2005, the county pegged the Keystone Lodge and Spa at $10.7 million. In 2007, the county’s valuation climbed to $14.6 million.
Research, inspection and discovery by the county showed that land surrounding the lodge and spa is used for resort purposes, Breakstone said, explaining the increase in the taxable value of the property.
“The difference to the county is substantial,” Breakstone said, adding that the county’s resources have been taxed by the battle.
Vail Resorts first appealed the valuations to the Summit County Board of Equalization in a process going back more than a year.
“We believe in our valuations,” Breakstone said. “We’re fighting very hard.”
Outside the assessor’s office, several county officials were incredulous that Vail Resorts is fighting the valuation, which is based on a straightforward formula outlined by state law.
In the past, Vail Resorts staff members worked on valuation questions and generally arrived at mutually agreeable solutions with the county.
More recently, the company has hired outside tax consultants to work on the issue. The consultants are paid a percentage of whatever abatement they can win, county officials said.
In the 2007 assessment cycle, the county stepped up its efforts to gather all the information needed to arrive at the taxable values. That included getting some information from Vail Resorts with subpoenas, Breakstone said.
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