DougCo property valuation appeals set record

Mike McKibbin

By Mike McKibbin / NewsBreak Denver / May 25, 2023

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] — Over 11,000 property tax valuation appeals — the most ever received by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office — have been made since the office mailed notices of value to property owners at the start of May.

Assessor Toby Damisch released the number during Wednesday night’s live town hall meeting held by the county commissioners to discuss and answer questions about the significant increase in values and likely property tax hikes next year. It was the second such meeting in the last month.

“This has been the most impactful reappraisal that’s ever happened in Colorado,” Damisch said. “And it’s the largest increase in residential values in Colorado history for any two-year period.”

In Douglas County, property owners averaged a 49% increase in valuation, one of the highest along the Front Range. Damisch also noted the office historically adjusts between 25% to 40% of their appeals and anticipated this year reaching 50%. The office assesses some 160,000 properties every two years.
Douglas County Assessor Toby Damisch.Photo byDouglas County

Lawsuit vs. Democratic plan highlighted

The town hall was held the same day the commissioners announced they had joined a lawsuit against a Democratic plan to provide property tax relief in 2024. State voters will decide that plan in the November general election, depending on the rulings and outcome of the lawsuit filed in Denver County District Court by Advance Colorado, a conservative non-profit, and an Englewood City Council member.

The lawsuit was the subject of some questions during the town hall, which included the president of Advance Colorado, Michael Fields, a county resident, on the panel.

He said the Proposition HH plan would still result in a 34% increase in residential property taxes compared to the amount of taxes paid before state voters repealed the 1982 Gallagher amendment in 2020. That amendment shifted the property tax burden from residential to commercial property owners.

Fields also stated taxpayers would lose $10 billion in Taxpayers Bill of Rights refunds over the next 10 years under the plan.

“The legislature has every ability to lower the assessment rates and cap property tax revenue; they don’t need voters to do that,” he said.

Fields said his group urged Gov. Jared Polis, who supported Senate Bill 23-303 that set out the plan, to call a special legislative session to address the situation. The plan was approved by lawmakers on the last day of the regular legislative session.

“We need a larger long-term solution and not what’s proposed,” Fields added.

Plan supporter details potential savings

Ameliese Steel, with the pro-business group Colorado Concern, supported the measure and noted the group had worked in recent years to pass legislation that helped reduce property taxes by $70 million.

She estimated the average Douglas County home valued at $818,000 would save between $5,000 to $10,000 in property taxes over the next decade under the plan.

Steel also said the owner of a $3.3 million commercial property would save between $45,000 to $146,000 over 10 years. She noted the wide range considers unknowns about the mill levies set by individual taxing authorities. Those levies are set by the end of each year and determine how much property tax is paid the following year.
State Rep. Lisa Frizell (R-Dougls County).Photo byLisa Frizell

Republican state Rep. Lisa Frizell of Douglas County — a longtime former Douglas County assessor — said the measure was not a bipartisan bill, wasn’t properly “stakeholded,” and was created in the governor’s office without input from counties, special districts or citizens.

“The state does not have any skin in the game when it comes to property taxes because they don’t collect any,” Frizell said. “This is a local government funding mechanism, and the people who should have been at the table were not. They did this in a dark room on the first floor of the state Capitol” building, where the governor’s office is located.
Douglas County Commissioner George Teal.Photo byDouglas County

County relief promised

Commissioner George Teal promised the county would once again approve a temporary mill levy credit on its portion of the 2024 tax bills. The county collects just over 19% of property tax revenue paid by its citizens and has approved the temporary credits for most of the last seven years.

“We will do that,” Teal said. “We’ve been talking about doing it for months, so I feel very confident we will give a property tax credit on the Douglas County portion of your tax bill.”

Frizell noted a bill passed this session that allows other local government entities, such as fire, special and metro districts to take the same action. She added some metro districts can’t do so due to their financial situation.

For information on the property valuation appeals process, visit the county assessor’s website before June 8. Appeals decisions are due by Aug.5, and Damisch’s office will send out notices of decision. Further appeals can be filed with the county board of equalization — a panel of independent appraisers — by Sept. 15, and hearings will be held in September and October.

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As an editor and bureau reporter, I have won numerous Colorado Press Association and Associated Press awards.

Denver, CO

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