Property assessments might be a surprise to county homeowners

The value of many Mesa County homes has declined sharply in the past few months, but not in the eyes of the Mesa County Assessor’s Office.

The property assessments were done in the 18-month period between January 2007 and July of last year. The market was strong, home sales were brisk and housing was in short supply.

Today the opposite is true.

But the assessed values of homes are increasing, and possibly the taxes associated with those homes, in a slowing economy.

“This will probably be the first time in 22 years that this will happen,” said Barbara Brewer, Mesa County assessor. “I hate it. I really feel terrible about it.”

The assessment process across the state is determined by law and the state Constitution. Assessors must appraise properties in the window they are given.

“I’m not allowed to take in the current value,” Brewer said.

The assessments, made when the economy was running at full tilt, could translate to higher taxes to be paid in 2010 and 2011, but not necessarily.

“It doesn’t always happen that way,” Brewer said.

It depends on the budgets of taxing entities such as Mesa County, School District 51, the city of Grand Junction and water, sewer and fire districts, she said.

“When they start having those budget meetings, that’s when people need to be proactive,” she said.

The average mill levy in the county is about 75 mills, Brewer said. It fluctuates depending on the various taxing districts that overlap a home’s location.

Brewer said the assessments of residential property values are definitely higher this year than in the past. But the assessments are not increasing as sharply.

“It wasn’t as steep a climb in ’07 and ’08 as it was in ’05, ’06,” she said.

It’s not all bad news, say some real-estate professionals. The slump in home values is just part of the market’s overall correction, said Joe Tripoli, a broker associate with ReMAX 4000.

“It always seemed like the assessed value (of homes) was less than market value. Now we are seeing the assessed value coming more in line to market value,” Tripoli said.

And it should not influence the home sales market, said Richard Schoenradt, an associate broker with Bray Real Estate.

“It won’t make a difference. Buyers generally don’t make a decision based on the taxes,” he said.

As for the higher valuations, soon to be arriving in mailboxes across the Grand Valley, it is what it is, he said.

“The way they apply it is as fair as they can possibly apply it,” Schoenradt said. “In good times the taxpayers will reap the benefit, and in bad times we won’t.”

Every year the assessor’s office prepares for people who may object to their appraisals. This year the office is bracing for impact.

“This nasty economy is impacting us in Mesa County,” Brewer said. “I don’t want our taxpayers to be caught off-guard.”

The office plans a media blitz to inform residents about the appraisals, how appraisals are made and how homeowners can challenge their appraisal. Brewer said the office will produce a video for government-access Channel 12, add information to its Web site, and give presentations to service groups, business groups and any interested organization.

The assessor’s office has already started its next 18-month appraisal cycle, which runs from January to July 2010. The assessments that come out of this 18-month period will be reflected in the taxes paid in 2012 and 2013.


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