One-third from the Baca Grande subdivision

by Lisa Cyriacks

Peter Peterson, the newly elected Saguache County Assessor, has his hands full in reviewing 250+ protests filed by property owners across Saguache County. About one-third were filed by property owners in the Baca Grande.

According to Peterson, “Most protests have to do with improvements, which across the board saw a increase of 30-40%. A few have to do with people unhappy with the reductions in vacant land values.”

Controversies in valuations over the past couple of years, including a lawsuit against the County, have increased awareness by property owners of what these valuations might mean when it comes to next year’s property tax bill.

“One major factor that seems to be contributing to the controversy is people’s lack of understanding of the difference between fee appraisal and mass appraisal. The assessor’s office does not do fee appraisal—does not have the staff to do it.” Peterson states.

“Another factor is that people are bringing “comps” (comparable sales) that are outside the time period dictated by law.” Peterson continued. That time period is from July 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014. Peterson, as allowed under statute, has also included sales data from the previous six months, extending that period back to January 1, 2013.

“Property owners need to understand that I am confined by statutes as to the amount of leeway I have in issuing valuations,” Peterson commented. “I am willing to work with any property owner who thinks their valuation is not fair, within those limitations prescribed by statute.”

According to local realtors, that message does not seem to correlate with their experience in the local market. Land values are dropping. The county treasurer has a long list of lots the County is reclaiming due to unpaid taxes. Houses are selling, but at discounted prices—some after years of being on the market.

Peterson describes the challenges of working with the “Pueblo system” that he inherited when he took office earlier this year. “The system goes down when we are doing updates, which resulted in redoing Special Notices of Valuation. There are mistakes in the system, which have resulted in errors in square footage, errors in the grade of the property, which affects the overall value. I am already talking to the county commissioners about acquiring a new software system for the next cycle of valuations in 2017.”

“That’s one reason I value these current protests,” Peterson sums up. “It gives the chance to correct the information going forward.”

As of June 18, Peterson is about 75-80% complete with collecting the information to respond to protests. The assessor must make a decision on your protest and mail a Notice of Determination to you by the last regular working day in June.

If you are dissatisfied with the assessor’s decision, you may appeal in writing to the County Board of Equalization by July 15.