Property tax to drop as collections go up
Commercial rates to rise

Commercial properties were reappraised this year. Why does that matter? For commercial properties, it means higher taxes. For almost everyone else, it means a downward pressure on the tax rate, according to Grand County Treasurer Chris Kauffman. The tax rate will go down about 15 percent.

Not everyone will feel respite from the commercial appraisals, Kauffman said—only those who live in areas with commercial properties will see downward pressure on their tax rate. So Castle Valley is out of luck.

People will find out soon what property taxes they can expect to pay. Valuation notices come out on July 22, according to the Grand County Clerk/Auditor’s Office.

Assessments are on a five-year cycle. Next year, Castle Valley can look forward to being reassessed, said Grand County Assessor Debbie Swasey. Assessments are required at least every five years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen more often. This year, condominiums were not up for reassessment but they were reassessed anyway. That was because condos were selling for much more than their assessed value, Swasey said. So condo owners can also expect to see their taxes go up.

When valuation notices come out, Swasey said, don’t wait to contact her office.

“Contact us if they think there’s something wrong with either their value or even their status on their property. So if they’re being valued as a secondary home and they think they should be a primary, get a hold of us as soon as you get that notice because we don’t want them to miss [the] Sept. 15 … deadline. If you do nothing until Sept. 15, it’s too late,” Swasey said.

Just because taxes are going up for some does not mean the taxing entities (the county, the school district and other smaller districts) are getting more money, said Kauffman.

“It’s very counterintuitive, and trying to translate all this to an individual and explain to them, yes, you’re paying way more than you did last year, but that doesn’t mean that anybody is getting more money, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s really hard to translate that. Even if there are these small decreases over time, nobody notices those,” Kauffman said.

What is actually going on is that the budget for how much taxes can be collected is fixed. For every commercial property that sees a tax increase this year, several residential properties will see slight decreases. The total amount of taxes collected will generally be the same as the year before, Kauffman said.

There’s an exception to the rule, however, Kauffman said. When there is new growth—new hotels and other developments—their tax money is added to the pot. So the taxing entities will get more than $100,000 additional tax dollars thanks to $70 million in new growth.

Another factor that affects the tax rate is the collection rate. The less money the government is able to collect, the more it has to ask for to cover its budget. Kauffman is proud of the county’s increasing collection rate.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into whether or not people pay their property taxes so I can’t say it’s all because of me, but our property tax collection rate has been at 96 percent the last two years, which is higher than it’s been as far back as I looked, which was about 10 or 15 years. It’s pulling that average rate up … that average right now is at 94.7 [percent] in the current year, [2018], so if we can keep it up there at 96 [percent] we’ll continue to pull that five-year average up and every time we do that, we save the taxpayers money. As of this year, I think we’ve saved about half a million dollars in taxes we didn’t have to ask for due to that collection rate starting to go up,” Kauffman said.

To get the collection rate up, Kauffman rearranged forms to make it clearer if people owed back taxes from previous years. He also began sending out two reminder postcards a year. One of those postcards is required by law, “but it wasn’t happening before I got into office,” Kauffman said. The changes may have been a factor in the rising collection rate.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent