Chuck Cobb: Reappraisal and the RAR — Where have we been; where are we going?
January 29, 2019
Editor's note: The following is the first column in an ongoing series about the processes involved with property assessment. The series will continue next week with a column about residential assessments and a few of the variables that will affect future values.
As the Moffat County Assessor's Office brings to close the 2018 assessment year and begins setting the groundwork for 2019, it is important to note that 2019 is gearing up to be a very interesting one, not only for our office, but also for our property owners.
First and foremost, 2019 is a "reappraisal year." This bi-annual re-valuation of all real property is implemented every odd year in Colorado by all 64 county assessors. Secondly, this is also a year during which the Colorado General Assembly will make any necessary adjustments to the residential assessment rate, or RAR, per guidelines set forth in the Gallagher Amendment.
Both are going to have an impact on your future property values and, in turn, future revenue streams for our counties taxing districts.
Before I go into further in depth about the reappraisal process, the implications of a new RAR, and those dreaded "increases in value," I would like to begin on a lighter note and share some historical assessment facts I came across last week as I was filing some of my end-of-the -year forms. I thought you might find these interesting, if not amusing.
The one document that most caught my attention was Moffat County's "1913 Abstract of Value" — which I believe was the first official abstract. This seemed significant, mostly because we just filed our 2018 version of this very same document. Oh how things have changed in 115 years.
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First, you must understand that, prior to the early 1980s, the assessor not only inventoried and valued all real property (just like we still do today), but also inventoried and valued many of the personal items found in your home and on your lands. The assessor actually valued your appliances, jewelry, furniture, livestock, farm equipment, and the like for taxation purposes, too. If the thought of the assessor making a house call today might make you feel a bit uncomfortable, let's go back to the 1950s, when the assessor would regularly go door to door and come inside each home to inventory personal belongings, all in the interest of assessing it for taxation purposes.
With tongue in cheek, I'm thinking a typical home assessment by the assessor may have gone something like this:
"Well, well, well, Mr. Jones, look what we have here — a brand new Motorola Console TV — is that color? That will carry a much higher value than your old black-and-white one — $100. I see you still have the same old 1953 Crosley Shelvador refrigerator — $135 in value. Wow, a new Singer sewing machine for your wife —$38. Mr. Jones, is that also a new International Harvester out there in the barn — $3,550. And, by the way, did you make some upgrades to the barn, too? It sure looks better than it did last year. That's worth at least $2500, don't you think? I also see you now have 10 cows, two pigs, and a dozen chickens — $300 more. Lucky for you, Mr. Jones. we don't put a value on all of your cats and dogs!"
With all respect to my predecessors, even though it was their statutory duty to make those neighborhood inspections, I'm sure they found them to be very uncomfortable and sometimes confrontational as they made their way about town. I have heard stories that homeowners would actually hide or cover up items of value when the assessor was making his rounds with hopes he would overlook them. I also heard that homeowners actually had an "assessor watch program," in which they would call everyone in the neighborhood to warn them that the assessor was in their block. Thank goodness those days of assessing personal items like these have passed.
So let's get back to that 1913 Abstract of Value and just see what the county assessor was assessing 115 years ago and the actual value he was allocating back then. In addition to the usual agricultural land parcels and residential improvements\structures, the assessor also listed the following items of value on the abstract:
• Livestock: 4,616 horses at $54.72 each, 35 mules at $96.57 each; 36,484 range cattle at $38.32 each; 13,122 sheep at $6 each, and 268 swine at $10 each. It was interesting to note, there were no goats or dairy cattle included and zero assess counted. But, there were 90 elk valued at $36 each. Yes, Elk! I have been told they were harvested from the Yellowstone elk heard and brought here to breed and sell.
• Vehicles, etc.: 11 automobiles at $530 each; 385 carriages and vehicles of every description at $51.06 each; 60 musical instruments at $143 each, and 43 clocks and watches at $12.32. each.
Additionally, the assessor also assessed agricultural implements, hay and grain, jewelry, gold, diamonds household property, furniture, libraries, bank stock\shares and, of course, we don't want to forget the 193 miles of telephone lines that ran throughout our county at that time. The abstract total reflected a grand assessed value of $4,002,400, a far reach from our 2018's assessed value of $401,529,250.
In my next column, I'll focus primarily on the residential sector and try to help you better understand a few of the variables that will affect your future values.
Chuck Cobb is Moffat County assessor.