Property tax claim reassessed

Commissioners take second look at Craig Partners' assessment

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Other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Awarded a bid to Craig Steel for material to make cattle guards. Craig Steel provided a low bid of $9,713.47.

• Signed a grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado for building new soccer fields within the county. This is the second grant request filed for the project.

GOCO denied the first one because the application did not include enough support outside the soccer community. The new application includes a petition signed by 227 residents, 64 percent of which are not members of soccer leagues and clubs, said Stephanie Pearce, a county administrative assistant.

• Approved new Moffat County Library Board by-laws, which included changing board trustee requirements.

Instead of requiring one trustee from Maybell, now preference is given to residents from western Moffat County.

The landlord for a large commercial operation in Craig successfully protested its property valuation, lowering the assessed value about $500,000.

Craig Partners, which owns the Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply building at 2355 W. Victory Way, appealed the 2007 revaluation on its building in May 2007, when the Moffat County Assessor's Office mailed value notices to every property owner in the county.

The Assessor's Office agreed to lower the property value from $1.4 million to $925,000 after the property owner provided additional information, Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

The group provided proof it did not earn enough in lease revenue to support such a high property value, said Jennifer Riley, Assessor's Office chief appraiser.

"Craig Partners has a lease agreement that supports a lower value," Riley said. "They're locked in at a rate lower than what you would expect."

The Moffat County Commission approved the change at its Tuesday meeting after a recommendation from the Assessor's Office.

Craig Partners originally protested a $1.8 million valuation on the building in May 2007. Brinks' office initially denied the protest.

Craig Partners appealed to the County Board of Equalization, and when the Assessor's Office investigated further, it found the value of the parking lot was mistakenly included in the building's value; the two are owned by separate entities.

Upon the discovery, the Assessor's Office agreed to cut the parking lot's value and lower the building's valuation to $1.4 million.

Brinks and her staff never had any contact with members of Craig Partners - which receives mail in Montana - up to that point, and no one representing the group appeared at the appeal hearing, Brinks said.

When Brinks was notified the group planned to protest again, this time taking the case to the state Board of Assessment Appeals, her office contacted the group's attorney to see what issue was left.

The final decrease of nearly $500,000 came after negotiations.

Murdoch's is still under a lease signed in 2005, paying a rate Craig Partners agreed to under commercial values at the time, Riley said.

"Their bottom line is affected by the lease value," Riley said.

Because Craig Partners is not earning the gains in property value seen in the past two years, their taxable value should be adjusted, Riley said.

The final amount was a compromise between the Assessor's Office and Craig Partners, she added.

"It's not as low as they would like it to be, and it's not as high as we would like it to be," Riley said.

The Assessor's Office agreed there was suitable cause for the change, Brinks said.

Resident abatements

The Commission approved two tax abatements for residents and denied a third, all on the recommendations of Assessor's Office officials.

Les and Elizabeth Cooney successfully applied for the county to change the classification of a building they own off Yampa Avenue.

The couple used the building for commercial purposes until Les retired. They now use it for residential purposes, Riley said.

"In the past, we have given taxpayers the benefit of the residential rate when they no longer operate them as commercial and only for residential uses," Riley said.

Changing the building's designation from commercial to residential lowers the taxes due on the building from $3,489 to $959.

The Commission also approved a tax abatement for Richard and Donna Deakins.

The Assessor's Office approved the change after discovering an internal clerical error. The assessed value for the couple's property was lowered from $543,000 to $114,000.

The Commission denied a tax abatement for William and Brenda Buffham. The Assessor's Office did not receive a notice from the couple until they received their tax bill, Riley said.

The couple wanted to change their property's classification from residential to agricultural because they keep horses on the property some of the year.

Assessor's Office officials did not feel now was an appropriate time to file complaints, and because the couple's horses are not currently on the property it is impossible to verify the claim. The Commission agreed, but members wanted to clarify the county would be willing to look at reclassification May 2008.

It's important to note for the cases of the Cooneys and the Buffhams that the Assessor's Office does not review property based on government zoning regulations, Brinks said.

"Zoning does not have anything to do with what our office does," she said. "Our office assesses on use."

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