By Roger Baker
It’s August, which means it’s time for the Gilpin County Commissioners to put on yet another of their hats and get to work as the County Board of Equalization.
The CBOE is one stage in the assessment appeal process, through which property owners – of both residential and commercial properties – can protest the valuations set on those properties by the Assessor’s Office.
In some counties, this can be a very big deal – in fact, the Commissioners there start hearing protests as early as June. But under Assessor Anne Schafer, the values for Gilpin County are established promptly and equitably, so even in this valuation year there aren’t many folks unhappy enough with their property valuations to go through the appeal process, easy though we try to make it.
Most folks will remember that the Assessor mailed out what are called Notices of Valuation back on May 1st. These represent the valuation, for tax purposes, of all the properties in the County.
Property owners have through early June to protest their valuations, and then the Assessor’s staff double-checks the records and makes adjustments as necessary by the end of June.
It’s probably worth noting that the Assessor and her appraisal staff aren’t acting as Realtors in this process – there will be only a rough correlation to what a property would be “worth” in a sale on the open market.
Colorado utilizes the principles of “mass appraisal:” similarly sized and sited properties will have similar values for tax purposes, with only slight adjustments for finish and amenities. Sales of comparable properties are taken into account, but not in quite the same manner in which “comps” are used in determining a sale price.
That works well enough for most homes, but the process gets really complicated with the limited number of businesses – particularly casinos – in the County. These sell fairly rarely, and often under distressed circumstances – a company may be going through a bankruptcy, for example – that can certainly skew the limited data available.
Combine that fact with the really large tax bills a casino operation will face, and it’s usually the case – and is again this year – that a couple of casinos protest their valuations to the CBOE.
To make sure that those protests – and all those by individual homeowners – are heard fairly, the County employs a hearing officer to review the evidence that led to the Assessor’s valuation; he heard those protests on July 30th, and then forwarded his recommendations to the CBOE for their August 2nd public hearing.
The CBOE usually decides on the spot whether or not to adjust valuations, but just to make sure the decisions are then sent by certified mail to the property owners.
That’s the end of the Commissioners’ involvement, though property owners can take their protest still higher up, to a state Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA). Though occasionally an individual homeowner will take such a drastic step, it’s mostly the casinos willing to invest the time (and money) in this process which usually move forward.
And though there’s no further CBOE role, the hearings before the BAA will take up a lot of Assessor Office time, as staff presents their case for why the value arrived at was fair and justified.
That’s the reason for this entire process, of course: to be fair to everyone. Nobody likes paying property taxes – but it’s a lot easier if everyone believes that they are paying only their fair share.