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Property tax increase: plenty of variables

Property owners in El Paso County received their real property notice of valuation from the EPC assessor in May. Steve Schleiker, EPC assessor, said that 179,624, or about 91 percent of single family homes in the county, realized an increase in valuation; 11,579 did not increase or decrease; and 6,779 decreased in value.Schleiker said the appraisals on the more than 246,000 parcels in EPC are done on a mass scale, based in part on sales in individual neighborhoods, which can vary across the county, he said. The market-approach-to-value uses sales from a specific 24-month time period ó in this instance, the time frame began July 1, 2012, and ended June 30, 2014, Schleiker said.ìIn 2009 and 2011, our reassessment years, foreclosures were really heavy,î he said. ìBy law, an assessor has to consider a foreclosure amount in their data analysis ó those bring down the property values. Now that theyíre drying up a bit, theyíre not affecting the market as much.îIn January 2014, the county had 201 foreclosures; however, in January 2015, that number decreased to only 96, he said. In February 2014, there were 181 foreclosures; and, in February 2015, the county had 94 foreclosures, Schleiker said. Additionally, house flippers are seeking out neighborhoods, and buying, renovating and reselling at a higher price, he said. Both scenarios increase property values, Schleiker said.Property value increases in EPC average about 8 percent, and are minimal compared to other counties. ìIn Douglas County, the average increase on a single family residential property was 19.2 percent,î Schleiker said. ìIn Denver, Arapahoe and Teller counties; it was a 20 percent increase.îSchleiker said his office carefully values properties because they are audited every year; and, if a discrepancy is found, the State Board of Equalization can order a reappraisal. ìThe state comes down, takes over the assessorís office and bring in their own appraisers,î he said. ìThe taxpayers, including me, pay their salary and room and board. We are audited with a fine-toothed comb. If an assessor does not make their market adjustments in accordance with the sales, they fail; and there are a lot of consequences that go with that.îThe tax amount listed on the valuations notice is strictly an estimate, because the mill levies for 2015 have not been set, Schleiker said. ìThe mill levies by the taxing entities will not be sent to my office until Dec. 15,î he said. ìThose entitiesí budgets can only increase by so much per year, according to the Taxpayerís Bill of Rights. If it goes too high, they have to ratchet their mill levy down; and they are nervous about having to ratchet it down.îBecause mill levies vary throughout the county, some people will see a larger increase in their estimated taxes than others, Schleiker said. Glenna Harrison, a Falcon resident who lives south of Highway 24, said her taxes more than doubled from last year, from about $572 to $1,230. Another Falcon resident (she preferred anonymity), who lives north of Woodmen Road, said her taxes went up about $700.† Both Harrison and the other resident live in areas where the mill rate is 67.21. However, just north of the other residentís property is the Paint Brush Hills subdivision, where the mill rate is 89.388, according to the assessor’s website. †”The mill levy rate plays a big part in determining property taxes,” Schleiker said. †”Some people are paying about 60 mills, but right across the street they’re paying 120 mills.”Agricultural land represents the largest part of the county, especially to the east, and the assessorís office had to adjust those values as well, Schleiker said. ìWe have just under 520,000 acres of grazing land and that assessed value went up as well,î he said. ìThat value has gone up 10 percent statewide, and thatís important because there are folks out there leasing land for grazing cattle. They can lease property out for grazing at prices they havenít seen for years.îSchleiker said that, while some people may want to appeal the assessed value of their home to lessen their tax burden, others may want to uphold the new value to increase the price they can fetch for their property for lease options other than grazing, such as wind turbine construction.However, when property owners in the vicinity of the Golden West Wind Farm Project near Calhan saw the increase in their property values, Schleiker said he received several phone calls from concerned citizens saying that their property cannot be worth the new assessed value because of the wind farm. ìThe study period was from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2014, and the project change was approved in 2015, which was after the mandatory study period,î Schleiker said. ìWe have not valued properties with a wind turbine in El Paso County yet. We have valued properties with high-powered transmission lines, and we have not seen any diminution in values. But I am going to be monitoring sales on those properties, so if I do see a decrease in value and itís due to the wind farm, I will include that data.îOn the whole, Schleiker said he made a decision to leave the property valuations of the Black Forest burn scar area as is. ìIím not confident in the sales of the time during the study period in 2013,î he said. ìIt was costing owners about $5,000 to get rid of dead sticks so Iím not confident in the sales data. Weíll go through another study period and assess that area in 2017, when we can get more accurate data. It will be affected by new construction out there.îAdditionally, Schleiker said he is going to monitor the sales of other negatively impacted areas like properties in the Mountain Shadows subdivision and the flood areas in Manitou Springs for accuracy in the next round of valuations.In general, everyone wants their property values to keep appreciating, Schleiker said. ìThe analogy I like to use Ö itís like a retirement account,î he said. ìTen years ago, it took a huge hit. But now, things are coming back. I gained 8 percent in 24 months. The majority of folks think thatís great. Itís the same with your home. But if someone isnít too sure how we came to that value, they can call us or appeal the valuation.î

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