Tax D-Day Looming Thousands Expected to File Protests Throughout Region

Local Residents Hedging Bets on Legislative Relief

Rick Langenberg


The day of tax reckoning is right around the corner, but don’t expect a miracle in the form of financial relief, as area officials have made one point perfectly clear: The law is the law.


That said, local residents are still trying to analyze what is becoming a very complex property tax scenario, and are hopeful about receiving a break from local and state government officials with lower mill levy rates, or even a cap on overall tax revenue for the next decade.  The entire picture of how huge value hikes translate to your actual property tax bill is still extremely confusing for most residents, and is one that is generating mixed opinions


Regardless, Teller property owners face a June 8 deadline to protest their notice of valuations, with hundreds expected to jump on the growing protest bandwagon. Throughout the Pikes Peak region, this number could exceed 10,000.


In  most cases, these values have represented a bad case of sticker shock, with residents staring at hikes that sometimes hit the 100 percent-increase margin.   This week, residents who want to protest these values, must have their protests with the county assessor’s office postmarked by the June 8 date.


Then, according to Teller County Assessor Carol Kittelson, their office will make a final determination on these formal protests on June 30, in what is described as “notices of determination.”


That is just the first stage of the protest period. As the assessor explains, “Should petitioners choose to continue further with the appeal process, they may send in their appeal to the Teller County Board of Equalization (CBOE) by July 15. The CBOE hearings will conclude August 5. There is one more level with the Board of Assessment Appeals, Binding Arbitration, or District Court after that.”


Despite all the publicity in the local and regional media regarding the valuation hike explosion, based on assessments done as of June 30, 2022 (the peak of the real estate boom), Kittelson is not predicting a record number of protests locally, which occurred during the 2015 year. Still, their office has already received more than 1,000 protests.


In an email, Kittelson said it’s hard to predict what percentage of these will get altered. She noted that  “most of the adjustments are inventory corrections like the removal of a bathtub or a flooded basement. Our real estate professionals have been helpful to our property owners by assisting them with ‘comparables.’”


In a previous meeting, Deputy Assessor Michael Akana cited classification of property as probably the biggest area officials examined when considering value adjustments.


We Aren’t the Bad Guys

The assessor’s office has received much moral support from the Teller County commissioners, who have praised them for their recent presentations at community meetings. A meeting in  mid-May generated more than 100 speakers, who made their views known about the financial impacts of the value hikes.  TMJ has also received many calls, pertaining to this issue, with some crying foul over what they describe as  government over-reach and taking advantage of people with limited income.


The commissioners, though, have cautioned residents not “to kill the messenger.” They have stressed that the assessor’s office must follow state guidelines and can’t arbitrarily change values. “She (Assessor Carol Kittelson) is not the bad guy,” said Commissioner Dan Williams at a previous meeting. “Show a little grace to her office.”


In any case, the commissioners, who act as the board of equalization, will have a busy time during the protest hearings this summer, especially compared to two years ago, when hardly any protests were filed.


The big controversial brouhaha during the latest reappraisal period deals with the timing of the assessed values. The current values are based on property market value as of June 30, 2022, and don’t take into account factors that have occurred since then, with declining home prices and fewer  homes under construction, inflation and global tensions. These valuation notices were done during the peak of the most recent real estate boom.


However, in Teller County, these fluctuations haven’t occurred as much, as assessor officials say the market here has been quite resilient. Still, the values residents recently received mirrors one awkward and unpleasant reality:   Their cited values are probably higher than what their property is worth today, a scenario that often irks taxpayers.


But that is a development that isn’t new to the state assessment world, and has occurred before.

Kittelson was complimentary of the actions of the county commissioners in highlighting this issue and  working towards finding a solution legislatively.


Moreover, the  assessor also believes that residents and property owners are probably more attuned to  market realities.


“I believe more people may be more aware about the local, state-wide, and national real estate market than they probably ever have been,” said Kittelson.


In fact, the attention over this issue may have reduced the projected volume of protests. About a month ago, assessor officials were preparing for the worst, and bracing themselves for a record volume of protests.


But the emotional fury, associated with this protest movement, may have eased up slightly, following a series of community meetings that outlined the situation in detail and offered possible solutions.


Possible Tax Relief In Question

How much will these escalating values will impact real dollar property tax hikes is still an open-ended question, and could be determined by local and state officials.


The county commissioners have lobbied hard for a bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Baisley, SB-23-108, that would provide relief to property owners by permitting local government entities to temporarily lower their mill levies, without getting hit by the restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) law.  Usually, if a government entity lowers its mill levy rate, it can’t bring it back to the former level without a vote of the people.  As a result of this restriction, it is rare to have a local entity lower their mill rate, even for governments in Teller County, known for their fiscal conservatism.


“This is an example of what we need to do,” said Commission Chairman Erik Stone, who actually  played a big role in the crafting of the legislation, in describing the benefits of the Baisley legislation at a recent meeting.


At their most recent meeting, Stone indicated that the commissioners may take this one step further and organize a meeting with other government entities to outline how this temporary relief package could work for the benefit of property owners, without impacting government services.


This bill isn’t the only legislation in the works to possible offer property owners some relief.

At the tail end of the session, Governor Jared Polis signed into a law a Democratic-sponsored package that would put a cap on property tax hikes over an extended period by diverting the TABOR surplus fund to homeowners and commercial property owners for property tax relief.


But this would require voter approval of Proposition HH at the state level this November.


This legislation has received a cold response by local leaders, who say it could ignite a lawsuit. A group called the Advanced Colorado Institute has hinted that it may take such action.


“I think you are going to see a lawsuit brought by taxpayers, saying it’s not a legal law,” stated Stone in a previous interview with TMJ.” The reality is that there are few local governments that need or want this property tax increase. In many ways, SB 23-208 is taking money out of your left pocket and putting in your right pocket. With SB 23-208, you won’t have to give up anything.”