Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
So, you’re fighting mad about your recent property tax valuation. Well, calm down before you mail off your protest letter to the Assessor’s Office that contains some sob story about the piece of dilapidated crap you have lived in for the past 20 years amidst the renovation of the entire West End, which you did not participate in.
He doesn’t want to hear about your leaking roof or the fact that the plumbing has never worked quite right.
It’s time to take a little responsibility for your plight. Maybe you didn’t remodel your kitchen with custom cherry cabinets or Italian granite countertops. Perhaps you showed some restraint and your great room was only upgraded to good. It might even be that you enjoy your mother-in-law’s company and so you never considered converting the attic above the garage to an apartment. So what? These things are not what cause your property taxes to shoot Rocky Mountain high, anyway.
It’s not the assessor’s fault either. Give the guy a break. Blaming him for the increased value of your house is like blaming the paperboy for the war in Iraq. The assessor doesn’t set the price of your house. Realtors do. (Just kidding.) Actually, the assessor only tries to guess what your house is worth. Is he wrong sometimes? Sure. Is he right sometimes? Yes, probably way more often than not.
You can easily prove this. Look at your property valuation again. Now, look in the nearest mirror and tell yourself, while keeping eye contact, that you didn’t think your house was worth that much last year, when the assessor was making his guess. Ah ha, you’re blushing! You thought it was worth more, didn’t you? During that round of golf last summer how much did you tell your brother-in-law from Cleveland what your property was worth? For that matter, how much did you tell your banker it was worth?! Yeah, that’s what I thought.
And, here’s another thing to consider. Just because your assessed value went up, say, 60 percent this year doesn’t mean it is wrong now. Maybe it was way wrong on the low side the last time it was evaluated. There, that should make you feel better. You got away with something for a few years. Be happy.
Look, I’m going to level with you. High property values are not what make your property taxes high. It’s all the other stuff around your property that does. It’s the hospital. It’s employee housing. It’s the schools. It’s the open space. It’s the trails. It’s the athletic fields. It’s the Canary Initiative. It’s the beautification of Cemetery Lane. All this stuff is what has made your property taxes so painfully high. If you want to protest something, start with your own behavior in the voting booth. You did vote for most of this stuff, didn’t you? Well then, now it’s time to pay for it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The reason you have never been able to nix any local bond measures is because upon every last one of them the future and character of our town depended … and because you thought somebody else on Red Mountain was going to pay for them. You don’t have to acknowledge this truth to me or anyone else. Nobody is expecting you to. But, when you get all worked up over this and feel like going down to the courthouse to kick some serious assessor, at least be honest with yourself. You want to do something to support the Aspen Ideal now? Pay your damn tax bill.
But, there is no denying we are in a jam over this now. The Assessor’s Office is supposedly the busiest place in town these days (think about what a truly sad statement that is). So many people have protested their taxes already that the ones who don’t run the risk of being left shouldering a disproportionately large tax bill. Not to cause a run on the Assessor’s Office, but if you haven’t filed a protest already, you better do so quickly. Trust me, you do not want to be the only one in town who is not in on this. If you roll over now, the Assessor’s Office will mark you as a stooge and will be rolling over you for a long time to come. Protests have become so wildly popular this year that it is almost like your civic duty to get in on the arguing.
And yet, this begs a very important question: If we all protest our property valuations, who is going to pay for all the wonderful stuff we bought for ourselves through votes? The city? Think about it. If we all march down to City Hall and present our sob stories, pound our chests, present factual analysis based on scatter diagrams of comparable sales, and explain net present value grids based on hypothetical rental incomes and convince the assessor to lower the values of our properties, who is going to pay for all of our amenities?
Stop scratching your heads like you’re eventually going to come up with the answer. I’ll just give it to you. Ta, da; it’s still “us.” That’s right. By the time the assessor has had time to sift through all the paperwork we are inundating his office with and make the necessary downward adjustments, the politicians will have just enough time to raise the mill levy before next year’s property tax bills are mailed.
Easy come, easy go. It’s expensive to live in Aspen and we can’t blame the assessor for reminding us of that.
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.