Guest commentary: Ireland sets program of reform for assessor race
October 18, 2018
My first encounter with the world of taxation came at age 7 when I was paid for my first day as a cashier at Ireland's Oyster House. After my grandfather died, my grandmother needed help at the family restaurant and I was volunteered by my parents at $1 an hour.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that eight hours at $1 an hour added up to $6.96. Dad explained: you have to pay taxes son. As an undergraduate student I filed his corporate return and appealed an issue to the district manager. He paid, I paid and still do pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, and unemployment insurance. Democracy isn't cheap — the alternative is Greece, Italy and other floundering governments where some pay and others don't.
At least in Colorado we know that the state and local tax rates are set by the people at election time. As a candidate for county assessor and a trained hearing officer for hundreds of taxpayer appeals, I believe the assessor's most important job is to ensure that all properties are valued using the same standard whether they be tiny homes, third homes or mobile homes. The Constitution, the Gallagher (1982) and TABOR (1992) amendments, and state statutes set the rules, not the assessor.
In Colorado, residential values are set solely using market comparisons. Assessors do not raise tax rates or collect taxes.
My experience as a hearing officer and an attorney with a tax emphasis law degree from the University of Colorado are invaluable resources in ensuring fairness. The system protects taxpayers from inaccurate assessments by providing three levels of appeal beyond the assessor's determination.
As a hearing officer for more than a decade, I have learned that taxpayers often know more about their property than any appraiser can. That knowledge sometimes resulted in a reduced valuation. In all those hundreds of hearings, I never raised a value as a result of the hearing.
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While we should honor Tom Isaac's 32 years of public service, including 28 years as assessor, the time has come for changes to bring the office closer to the people, more transparent and efficient. A better office and fair process is a win for everyone. Here's my positive program for reform:
1. Upgrade the computer interface so that taxpayers can have a one-stop shop to learn how their property was valued, including the comparable sales used, the underlying land use rules that may impact value and the data used in their valuation.
2. Have downvalley office hours so that Redstone, Basalt and Snowmass taxpayers can meet with appraisers and learn about the system without having to drive to Aspen. Not everyone loves computer software interfaces.
3. Update the internal software so the county assessor's software can talk with other systems, excel and GIS programs. Appraisers should appraise property, not enter data.
My experience researching public data bases and organizing the information for research projects will help me guide these improvements and create fair valuations.
Put a tax attorney to work for us and let Mick do the math. Vote by Nov. 6.
The Aspen Times is offering a guest commentary to each of the candidates running for local office.
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