Around the County Government Scene

Tax Protest Season Officially Ends

Rick Langenberg

It is not time yet for a victory lap, but elected officials in Teller County have signaled the end to the property assessment fight that attracted meetings with several hundred citizens and mega protests.

Nope, it wasn’t quite the time for pitch forks and angry mobs, but this issue ignited plenty of heated comments for months. In the end, elected leaders made it clear that the law is the law, and they can’t take action that will lead to a state audit or prompt legal violations. Instead, they have urged a possible legislative solution to concerns over soaring value and tax hikes.

At their most recent session, the Teller County commissioners, which act as the board of equalization, reported hearing some 150 cases from property owners, who filed formal protests against their recent valuations and didn’t agree with recommendations made by the assessor’s office.

Teller County Assessor Carol Kittelson previously reported receiving more than 1,500 official protests, which is mild compared to what occurred in El Paso County.

A number of readjustments did occur, however, based on property classifications, inventory corrections and other necessary alterations.

For residents still unhappy with these decision, they can take their complaints one step further at the state level through the Board of Assessment Appeals, binding arbitration or at the District  Court.

For the most part, the commissioners lauded the work of the assessor’s office in educating the residents and in making the necessary adjustments.

The process, though, wasn’t easy with many residents crying foul over valuations that escalated by more than 100 percent in some cases. This was due to the fact that the values were based on market worth as of June 30, 2022, the peak of the  most recent real estate boom. This value didn’t take into account the recessionary trend that occurred in recent months, along with high interest rates and global tensions that have drastically cooled down the market.

“By statute, your home is on the market,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Erik Stone, in classifying a major complaint voiced by residents during the protest period. He said many noted that they weren’t trying to sell their property, and so couldn’t understand this phenomenal increase, compared to the last time they received notices of valuation.

But by law, the values residents received in 2023 were based on market worth tabulated as of June 30, 2022.

This fact was repeatedly emphasized by county officials and elected leaders during a variety of public meetings.  Throughout the region, the number of protests topped the 10,000 mark.

So,  it wasn’t surprising that the Teller board of equalization heard so many cases. In fact, this number didn’t exceed preliminary expectations.

“The process went smoother than ever before,” said veteran Commissioner Bob Campbell, who has seen his share of property valuation protests during his  lengthy stint as commissioner.

“You made it real easy for us,” added Stone, when addressing the assessor.

Tax relief could still occur based on legislation passed, including a measure allowing local governments to lower mill levies on a temporary basis so they wouldn’t get impacted by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights law.

A state plan also would call for lowering the property tax revenue increases for a number of years by using a portion of the TABOR monies. But this would require voter approval in November. This latter effort also has sparked much protest in the region, and is opposed by the commissioners. Instead, they favor the former legislation, SB 108, sponsored by Senator Mark Baisley.

The Greening of Teller County

Rick Langenberg

Teller County remains in good shape from a moisture perspective, but it’s not time to let your guard down.

This was the gist of a message by Jay Teague, the director of the Teller County Office of Emergency Management.

On the upside, he reported the county’s looking much greener than past summers due to a huge level of precipitation delivered in late spring and early summer. This bombardment provided real challenges for road crews, but definitely lessened the fire dangers.

“The grass is holding green. We are looking good,” said Teague.

That outlook has been echoed by other communities. The Pikes Peak region could receive one of its highest levels of moisture in recent years.

But on a cautionary note, he expressed some concerns about residents not following proper procedures pertaining to burn permits.  And said his agency plans to kick off a big public education program. For example, he said the community wildfire protection plan needs to be updated.

In other county news, Teller’s capital improvement committee provided a list of nine projects seeking funding, and developed a rating system.

Also, the commissioners advised the public to be aware of a variety of traffic improvement projects on Hwy. 24 and Hwy. 67. These will provide some hassles for motorists, but they are not getting any complaints from county leaders. “We are glad the Colorado Department of Transportation is investing in Teller County,” said Stone. “It is much appreciated.”