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Property values going up, taxes may follow

Value-notice protests accepted through June 1

Collin Smith

— Property in Moffat County – including all residential, commercial, industrial and vacant land – increased in value by an average of about 20 percent this year, Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

Property owners can expect to receive a notice near May 4 stating the new value. The values will apply to taxes paid in 2010 and 2011.

Values are directly tied to the amount of taxes a property owner will pay. If the local and state mill levies remain the same for 2010 – they’re set each December – then the average property tax bill in Moffat County will increase by the same 20 percent, Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

Her office will be accepting residents’ protests through June 1.

“We’ll address anyone’s concerns,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”

However, citizens cannot protest their taxes because they’re too high, Brinks added. They are encouraged to protest their values when they believe a mistake has been made – such as misclassifying a residence as a business – but the Assessor’s Office does not set tax levels.

To help explain what’s coming, the Assessor’s Office hosted a free public forum Tuesday morning at the Moffat County Courthouse for business owners. Brinks said the forum was designated for business appraisals because they are more complicated than residential.

State law requires assessors to appraise residential properties based on their market value, the amount paid for purchases of the same type of home. Other properties have different formulas that can be applied at the assessor’s discretion.

In all cases, the Assessor’s Office cannot control what to value a certain property, said John Zimmerman, a commercial appraiser contracted to handle Moffat County valuations for the past six years who lead the presentation.

“The values are what the values are,” he said. “We can’t control, really, how much the tax burden is going to be. We’re not out to raise taxes or reclassify buildings to be mean or to raise more revenue. I know a lot of you might not believe this, but the assessor does not want to overvalue your property.”

The Assessor’s Office also cannot “cheat” and lower property values, because the state audits the county’s each year and would raise them back up regardless, Zimmerman said.

This year’s revaluations are based on real estate sales between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, which Zimmerman acknowledged ended before the national economy hit its lowest marks.

However, even if he was allowed by the state to include real estate sales after that date, local values likely wouldn’t have changed much, he added.

Jennifer Riley, the county’s chief appraiser, said she sees every sale in the county and prices, in general, have not fallen.

“The sales are still there,” she said. “The number of sales has fallen off, but the prices are still there. We have tried to go with the very lowest (valuations), and still be properly valued. The market has flattened, but it’s still high.”

Zimmerman warned the situation may seem unfair when people receive their notices of values, especially for businesses.

“You’re all experiencing a downturn in your business, but still paying at this rate,” he said.

For more information, call the Assessor’s Office at 824-9102, or visit the office on the second floor of the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way.


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