More than half of Summit County’s property valuation appeals have been denied
Assessor’s office saw record-high protests as property owners prepare for major increases in taxes next year
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the amount Roman Kowalewicz believes his commercial property tax will increase by.
In what Summit County Assessor Lisa Eurich called a “historic year,” county residents have filed the most property valuation appeals in nearly 15 years.
At 7,366 appeals, it’s the most protest from property owners seen in Summit County since the 2008-09 Great Recession. More than half of those appeals, 54%, were denied while 45% were adjusted, according to data from the assessor’s office.
That’s more adjustments than during the last valuation cycle in 2021, when 38% of all appeals were adjusted, according to Eurich. But this year also saw roughly five times the amount of appeals, increasing from 4% of all county property in 2021 to 19% in 2023.
“County assessors throughout the state had low appeal numbers in 2021,” Eurich stated in an email to Summit Daily News. “It makes sense when considering that, after 2021’s appraisal date of (June 30, 2020), the real estate market was going strong with unprecedented appreciation in sale prices, sales with zero days on market, bidding wars, and sale prices above list prices.”
But as the real estate market begins to slow, property owners are seeing values that have never been higher. Those values, determined on a biennial basis by the assessor’s office, are likely to translate to substantial increases in property taxes due next year.
Property taxes are based in part on the valuations conducted by county assessor’s offices for homes, commercial space and vacant land. Those figures are then multiplied by a statewide assessment rate before being multiplied by local mill levies, which fund a slew of local programs and entities, to give property owners their final tax bill.
Data from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs shows that on average residential values in Summit County were up more than 63% compared to 2021. Commercial properties were up an average of 28.5% while vacant land was up 90%.
Eurich’s office reported some valuations far exceeding those averages, with the largest increase being a parcel of land that was up 300%.
Even if residents’ receive a denial on their appeal, they can take their claim to the county Board of Equalization which is made up of experts in finance, real estate and other housing industry leaders who are appointed by commissioners.
During those meetings, which will take place over the coming weeks, appointees hear from property owners and the Assessor’s Office before making recommendations to commissioners about whether or not to change a valuation. Those decisions are expected in August. Depending on the outcome, property owners can continue their appeal up to the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals.
Eurich also said that even if property owners did not appeal this year, they will have another opportunity to do so next May, since valuations happen every odd year.
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Local and state officials have raised concerns for what the tax increases could mean for lower-income residents, such as seniors on fixed incomes, who bought their property years before it soared in value.
During a June 27 town hall in Breckenridge, Eurich and county commissioners joined Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Sen. Dylan Roberts to discuss possible relief measures for property owners.
Those include temporarily lowering mill levy rates, though commissioners cautioned that they only have control over their own rates and not those of the dozens of other taxing districts, which include the Summit School District, Summit Fire & EMS and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District.
The marquee proposal from Democratic state lawmakers is Proposition HH, which will appear on Colorado voters’ ballots this November. If approved, the measure would cut the statewide assessment rate for residential property from 6.765% to 6.7% for taxes owed in 2024, a rate that would continue for the next decade.
It would also exempt the first $50,000 from a residential property’s value from taxation this year. This would then be lowered to a $40,000 exemption in 2024 through the 2032 tax year (second-home owners would only receive the benefit through 2025).
For commercial properties, the assessment rate would reduce from 29% to 27.85% through 2026. The state could then continue to reduce the rate for the following years depending on an evaluation of the economy.
To avoid jeopardizing local government and school district funding, Proposition HH would also raise the state’s revenue cap as stipulated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. Doing so could reduce the amount of TABOR checks Coloradans receive, which is money the state is mandated to return to taxpayers after hitting its revenue limit.
A recent analysis by Colorado Public Radio found that under Proposition HH, the state could hold onto millions to billions of dollars in additional revenue that it would otherwise be forced to return to taxpayers. By the 2033 tax year, for example, the state could repurpose up to $2.2 billion of TABOR refunds, according to the analysis.
State Democrats say the intention is to use the additional funds to backfill schools and local governments to ensure services aren’t affected if property tax revenue is cut. About $20 million in additional revenue would also go toward a relief program for renters.
Republicans have denounced the measure and said it has more to do with TABOR than reducing property taxes, according to interviews conducted by CPR.
Roman Kowalewicz, a 26-year Summit County resident and business owner, said he does not believe Proposition HH does enough to help commercial property owners like himself. By his calculations, Kowalewicz’s commercial tax will increase by $20,000 next year, going from $42,000 to $62,000.
“It benefits single-family homeowners. It does not benefit any other sort of lodging property,” said Kowalewicz, who attended the June 27 town hall and said he left with more questions than answers.
Kowalewicz, who runs the 3 Peaks Lodge in Keystone, said he is one of only a handful of independent hotel owners in the county. While the peak of ski season can bring near-full occupancy, between the months of April and October, Kowalewicz said it can be a challenge to cover his expenses.
Though summer events help, Kowalewicz has seen his occupancy drop to less than half in recent weeks. He said the increase in property taxes will only make it harder for small lodging business owners to operate.
“We’ve got more competition … and our bed base is diluted and diluted,” Kowalewicz said.
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