Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Welcome to tax inflation | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Welcome to tax inflation

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error in the time span used for appraisals.

I really hate to get these blue postcards in the mail. As many Summit County property owners have recently discovered, these blue postcards represent a dramatic increase in our property taxes. For instance, my property taxes went up 64% from 2021 to 2023. According to the county, my property value increased by $358,000 during these two years. Sure, it did. Reality would suggest otherwise.

In Colorado, real property is reappraised by County Assessors every two years in the odd-numbered years. Hence the cards in our mailboxes. Once received, you have two choices: do nothing or appeal. If you do nothing, you agree with the county that the new assessment is correct, and you agree to pay the property taxes on your property. This is a choice you are making, and, hopefully, it will be an informed one, as the time to complain is now. Having a tax lien placed on your property for the failure to pay the increased taxes is not typically advice recommended by financial advisors!

If you want to complain (appeal), you must do so by June 8. If you miss this deadline and you still want to protest, you will need to file a request for an abatement. While I am an attorney, I do not have any practical legal experience in this area of the law, and you may wish to consult one who does know something about real estate law. However, experience has taught me that it is best not to miss legal deadlines, as the options available post-deadline usually become much more limited and certainly more expensive (like perhaps having to hire an attorney or appraiser).

Summit County’s assessor is required by law to use property sales data collected from June 30, 2017, to June 30, 2022, to determine the appraised value for 2023. The assessor can also use some limited information from 2022, including new construction or remodeled properties. During this period, we have gone through the insane distortions of “normal” life via COVID. Everything was out of whack, including real estate sales prices that were bumped up due to bidding wars. Of course, like everything else, eventually time — and sanity — saw corrections to the market, and real estate prices settled down. I am not too sure the valuations do not reflect the boom without also considering the reality that all booms fizzle out. This is in no way a criticism of our assessor, as she is simply following the law and using various pricing algorithms to assess the valuations. This also does not mean that the law is correct.

For 2023, Summit County’s budget projects revenues of just over $60 million. Total tax revenues account for just over $35.75 million with just short of $22.6 million projected to come from our property taxes. Property taxes account for 37.7% of the total revenues our county receives to operate. Yet, for some reason, and even with these huge increases in assessed property values, the county has budgeted to receive less money from property taxes in 2023 than it did in 2022 (by $666,257 if you are keeping score). A part of this budgeting could be due to the fact that the State legislature lowered the assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.765% for residential property. This would reduce property tax revenues in any Colorado county without offsetting increases in property valuations. Yet, Summit County is immune to this assessment decrease in the rate because we as voters permitted the county to increase the mill levy if the state made any adjustments. In essence, we gave back to the county what the state had given to us.

Unless I am the only property owner in the county who saw an increase in their property taxes, I would have expected the county to see a substantial increase in its property tax collections. I had no doubt that my real estate taxes would increase in 2023, as there is no doubt that the value of my property has increased since 2021. I have no problem paying taxes, especially to the government in the place where I live, rather than in some far-off foreign country like Washington, D.C. I want the excellent services we have up here in the mountains, from public safety to our parks, public health to early learning.

It is not the increase, but the amount of the increase, that should concern each and every one of us in the county. Pay the correct amount of taxes based upon fair valuations and not valuations that are not in tune with reality. Even if you don’t own real estate in this county, you will soon be paying higher prices because as the property taxes increase, especially on a large scale, profits decrease. As such, you can expect to see prices for rent, groceries and other supplies increase as landlords and businesses pass off some or all of any tax increases to its tenants or customers.

In stealing a quote from Arthur Godfrey (an early television and radio personality), I am proud to pay taxes in Summit County, Colorado. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.