On May 1, the El Paso County assessor’s office sent out valuation notices to all property owners within the county. Steve Schleiker, EPC assessor, said this reassessment year is unique because property values went up in general, while property taxes decreased.|
“For this assessment year, 98 percent of our single-family residences increased in value,” he said. However, property taxes decreased because the Gallagher Amendment kicked in, Schleiker said.
According to the Colorado Department of Treasury’s website, the Gallagher Amendment was adopted into the state’s constitution by voters in 1982. “Under the Gallagher Amendment, the portion of residential property that is subject to taxation (called the ‘assessed value’) drops when residential property values statewide grow faster than nonresidential properties.”
Schleiker said when taxes from residential properties account for more than 45 percent of the total property tax amount collected by the state, residential property taxes decrease; which is the reason property owners are seeing an increase in assessed value but a decrease in taxes, he said.
“The Falcon area saw a valuation increase of 10.94 percent from the 2015-2016 reappraisal period to the current one,” Schleiker said. “Peyton saw an almost 15 percent increase.”
The increase in property values can be attributed to several factors, he said. The time each property is on the market has gone down; the amount of home sales has gone up; new homes are being constructed in several locations in the county; and homes are being sold for more than the asking price, Schleiker said.
Carrie Lukins, a Realtor with State Alliance Realty, has been in the real estate business in Falcon for 10 years. She said homes are being sold quickly, for much more money than just a few years ago.
“The average price a single-family home has sold for is $311,857 in the Falcon area alone,” she said. “The average amount of days on the market, from the time of listing to the time of closing, is 44 days; with a 30 to 45-day closing period. I listed a home a few weeks ago at $235,000 in the Falcon area and the first day, I had nine showings and three offers.”
Lukins said while there could be concern the market will crash again like it did in 2007 and 2008, lending practices have changed to avert the same scenario. The market will begin to stabilize, but it is not going to crash, she said. New lending guidelines have put into place more stringent qualifications for obtaining a mortgage, Lukins said.
“A lot of people learned their lesson over the last 10 years and have taken the steps necessary to be wiser with their money and have bigger purchasing power,” she said.
Schleiker agreed and said bad lending practices, like interest-only loans or loans that did not require a down payment are no longer being offered. The market is hot right now because people want to live in El Paso County, he said.
Lukins said the market is a seller’s market right now, which is affecting rent prices. “There is not a lot of negotiating room for buyers,” she said. “If a buyer is not willing to pay the asking price, another buyer will be. But people are getting discouraged because homes are often on the market for less than three weeks; and people will put in multiple offers and get beat out each time. They are willing to pay the higher rent prices because they have to have a place to go.”
In Falcon, the average single-family home rental rate is about $1,450 per month but can reach as high as $2,500 for upgraded properties, she said.
Schleiker said the booming rental industry is spurring on an increase in the construction of apartment complexes. Having more units on the market should stabilize rent prices or even bring them down, he said.
Commercial and agricultural property values are also on the rise, which is another indicator of a strong market, Schleiker said. According to the data, commercial properties increased between 8 and 10 percent, while agricultural property increased between 5 and 8 percent, he said.
“The bottom line is that our No. 1 asset, our home, is appreciating in value,” Schleiker said. “Even when taxes start to go up, they are not going to go up that much.”
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Colorado’s water supply is low and its demand is high, according to a four-person panel of Colorado water experts. On May 3, the panel presented at the What’s on Tap? Colorado’s Water Future event sponsored by the Palmer Land Trust and Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project. Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, hosted the panel event.
“Scotch is for drinking, water is for fighting”
A look at the state of Colorado’s water
Panelist Amie Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust, said there is a statewide precipitation imbalance; wherein, 80 percent of the population and irrigation water demands are on the eastern slope, while almost 80 percent of the state’s water is on the western slope.
The statistics are grim, she said. Only 4 percent of all water on earth is fresh water. Of that, just 0.0067 percent is in lakes and rivers. The relative scarcity of consumable water, coupled with rapid climate change, creates uncertainty when it comes to the availability of water.
“We’re losing predictability on how our water is coming to us. We’re using our best data to predict the future, but data isn’t doing much for us because our future isn’t going to look like our past,” Beatie said.
The Colorado River, which provides 50 percent of the front range urban water supply and 66 percent of the state’s irrigated land acres water supply is one of “the most water-stressed rivers in the world,” Beatie said. “We’re using (the water) to extinction before it can actually reach the sea.”
The strain is made worse because of the state’s growing population. Colorado’s current population is more than 5.5 million; it is expected to grow to 10 million by 2050. The annual native Arkansas River Basin supplies 600,000-acre-feet of water to the state; by 2050, demand will rise by 560,000-acre-feet annually, according to an informational pamphlet handed out at the event.
“The question is, do we have enough water to supply to our people here, let alone the people to come? If we don’t, how are we going to supply that water?” Beatie asked.
Part of growing water demands will be handled by moving water from irrigated agriculture to cities, alongside water conservation, reuse and storage.
“The future of water in Colorado is incredibly challenging,” said Jeffrey Kahn, an attorney at Lyons Gaddis who has practiced water law in Colorado for more than 35 years.
Kahn talked about the Colorado Water plan adopted in late 2015 by Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
It is the only water plan in Colorado to be endorsed. Previously, Colorado had its appropriation doctrine, which stated those with senior water rights had the first say, and those with junior water rights didn’t get anything until those with senior rights had their water needs met in full.
“You may know that saying: ‘In Colorado, scotch is for drinking, water is for fighting,’” Kahn said. “The water plan doesn’t change that. The appropriation doctrine is still with us, and if we adhere to that, it’s still first in time, first in right.”
While agriculture provides reliable water supplies, attempting to re-allocate water prescribed for agriculture use can be difficult.
“Most of the easy solutions have been built. There is increasing pressure on agriculture to solve the dilemma, but that’s a threat to agriculture,” Kahn said.
Regular water consumers can also do their part.
“Irrigate less blue grass, (fewer) lawns. It doesn’t belong out here and it uses a tremendous amount of water,” Kahn said. Watering lawns “moves half of the municipal water demand in this state,” he added.
Panelist Rebecca Jewett, executive director of the Palmer Land Trust, said water is also vital to preserving Colorado’s scenic open spaces and vistas, and maintaining robust working farms.
The PLT water preservation goals include increasing the amount of protected irrigated farmland and its water rights through easements, deed restrictions and long-term leases; and assisting farmers with starting thriving farms, ultimately benefitting the local economy, Jewett said.
“We are exploring the possibility of identifying key farmland … vital to the survival of the region, and maybe identifying other farmland where we can re-route and use the water for other things,” Jewett said. “Really, it’s about figuring out how we can balance everything.”
The evening’s final panelist, Innovative Conservation Solutions Principal Scott Campbell, talked about several possible solutions to solving the water crisis.
“We can look at several things: flow science and flow variability, approaches to basin-wide planning and spatial analysis and design,” Campbell said.
Other solutions can be realized through water-oriented development, integrated land use and water planning, and exploratory scenario planning and planning for uncertainty, he said.
“The city of Colorado Springs is in a planning process,” Campbell said, referring to the city’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, which aims to establish a plan based on a healthy and thriving city in the near future.
“We need to be innovative. How do we use water as many times as possible as close to its origin as possible? That’s what we should be solving.”