The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners.

County mulls options for property tax relief

Commissioner Martin urges taxing entities to temporarily reduce mill levies

June 9, 2023

Garfield County is considering strategies to help provide some relief for property owners who are facing increases in their property taxes following the most recent valuation. The Board of County Commissioners is considering altering the county’s mill levy, factoring in inflation to the budget process, and is encouraging all the taxing entities to re-evaluate their mill levies following a period of increased property values, which raises the tax burden for owners.

Commissioner John Martin said that while one taxing entity temporarily reducing its mill levy won’t amount to a large decrease in property tax burden, if many entities collectively make reductions, it will create significant relief for taxpayers in 2024.

“If everyone looks at their tax bill they receive, they’ll have a breakdown of each and every one of the mill levy holders,” he said. “Then you can look across the page and see the total amount that’s going to each one.”

Notices of value were sent to property owners on May 1, and reflect property values based on the local real estate market as of June 30, 2022, as determined by the Garfield County Assessor’s Office. The notices included an estimated amount of property taxes due in 2024, based on where the property is located. Each district’s mill levy is voted upon by the people in those districts and is used to fund local taxing entities, such as school, fire, sanitation, and library districts, and local governments.

The Garfield County Treasurer’s Office collects property taxes, but the county only keeps its portion of the overall mill levy. The rest is distributed to each taxing entity based on its mill levy. The county’s total assessed property value for 2022 is $3.2 billion, of which 56 percent is oil and gas properties; 22 percent residential properties; 13 percent commercial and industrial properties; five percent utilities; three percent vacant land; and one percent agricultural.

The Garfield County Assessor’s Office determines the property’s market value, which is first multiplied by the assessment rate, which is set by the Colorado Constitution, then multiplied by the total mill levy in each district, equaling the tax amount due.

Martin stressed that the taxing entities and their boards need to understand that they’re potentially doubling their revenues over a year’s time, bringing in a windfall of tax revenues, and they need to operate in a manner that provides some relief for the taxpayers.

“Under Colorado statute, the county itself and all taxing entities have the authority to reduce, as a temporary measure, the mill levies,” he said. “As an alternative, what you can do is calculate how much revenue you need based upon the budget, reduce the overall mill levies to meet that … and the next year, the figures can be re-evaluated.

“We’re going to need a lot of cooperation and we need the public to understand the process,” Martin added. “The other taxing entities, like the school districts, need to be reminded that when you’re doubling revenues over a year, you need to help out the taxpayer who has been on your side for a long time.”