Residents report much higher property taxes for 2021 compared to previous years |

Residents report much higher property taxes for 2021 compared to previous years

Some owners think short-term rentals should be taxed at a higher rate than those who own property that are lived in full time

A home located on Slalom Drive in Breckenridge is pictured in July. Summit County property owners received their property tax notices in mid-January, and taxes increased 11% across the county on average.
Jonathan Huffman/Summit Multimedia

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that condo values increased 11% on average across the county in 2021.

In mid-January, Summit County community members received their tax notices for how much they owed the county in property taxes for 2021. Some of these owners were shocked at their bills.

One such individual was Dillon resident Dotti McKee. McKee owns two units in the same complex, and she said she thought it was “horrible” how much her taxes increased in a single year. In 2020, she paid about $869 per condo in taxes, and she’s paying $1,041 per condo for 2021, roughly a 20% increase in one year.

“I think it’s the smaller units (and) small investors, the people that don’t have a lot of money that are getting scrunched out of Summit County,” McKee said.

Dillon resident Scott Estill also saw his property increases leap. In 2020, he said he paid $1,780 on his condo, but he’s having to pay around $2,193 for 2021, roughly a 23% increase. Unlike McKee, Estill said he was expecting this kind of increase.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Estill said. “Maybe at the size of it, but it’s like with everything else going up: You have to pay for higher salaries for police officers and school teachers and whatever other public employees.”

Property tax calculations are based on three factors: the value of a property determined through the Summit County Assessor’s Office, an assessment rate, which for most homes is the residential rate, and mill rates and mill levies, depending on where the property is located.

According to a news release from the Summit County Treasurer’s Office, the county is set to collect $146 million for 30 local taxing authorities across 42 jurisdictions. Taxing entities include organizations like the Summit School District, the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District, Summit Fire & EMS, Colorado Mountain College, local governments and water districts.

“It depends on where the property is located and whichever jurisdictions that levy taxes via their mill rate, where your property is located, those mills are multiplied in,” Summit County Assessor Frank Celico said.

For example, nearly all property owners pay taxes for Summit School District. Homes located in the unincorporated parts of the county also pay taxes to Summit County government.

Celico said the jump in taxes collectible for 2021 are partly attributed to the increased values of homes. He said single-family home and townhome values rose 10.5%, and condos went up 11% on average across the county. Properties values are determined during a certain period, and the data collection period was from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2020 for the 2021 evaluation. This is when the real estate boom was just starting to take off locally.

This means that Summit County property owners could see an ever bigger jump in their valuations the next time around, especially if the current real estate boom continues.

Estill said, for the most part, this is to be expected, especially as the county’s cost of living increases.

“Unfortunately, private businesses … can raise prices to cover increases (but) the government has to do it with taxes,” Estill said. “I would expect the taxes to be going up for everybody just because the cost of living has gone up so much.”

McKee said the current system is unfair for owners who rent their units long-term. McKee lives in the county during the summer months, and she rents to local community members instead of short-term renting the rest of the year.

“I’m getting shot with the same amount of taxes as somebody who is short-terming and making triple what I’m making,” McKee said.

She said it’s frustrating that she has to pay the same taxes as other units in her complex that are short-term rentals. To her, it makes sense for short-term rentals — especially those in larger homes — to pay additional taxes.

McKee said she’d like to see the county and other towns develop some kind of sliding scale or other incentives, so that short-term rental owners pay more in property taxes than those who long-term rent to the workforce. It’s an argument that Estill has also heard before and one he thinks could work well in Summit County.

“Some of these places, you could get $200, $300 per night, so their break-even point might only be 10 nights out of the month, and if they are doing 20 to 25, they’re making a whole lot more money, but based off the same tax base,” Estill said.

Even still, Estill said he thinks property owners should brace for increased taxes in the years to come, especially as values on homes will likely continue to increase.

“It’s just a math problem … and I think everyone can see that they’re going up,” Estill said. “I have a lot of compassion for the ones that are living on paychecks that aren’t going up 23% or 11% or whatever the number happens to be. So, they are getting stuck with an extra 11% increase on property taxes, and maybe their wages are still the same.”

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