In most counties across the country, the county assessor is an elected official charged with independent oversight of the process to produce an annual property tax assessment.
Independence is an essential component of the system because it gives citizens confidence that all property is valued using the same process to develop accurate property values.
And when that independence is compromised, counties usually move quickly to address it to avoid an outright breakdown in public confidence of the system.
Recently, Adams County, Colorado faced a situation that called into question the independence of the county assessor.
A Denver Post investigation found that the Adams County Assessor reduced the taxable value on homes and businesses owned by some of the largest contributors to the Assessor’s re-election campaign.
One leading donor received $23 million in taxable value reductions on 11 buildings. Other contributors had their land values reduced by as much as 99%. Another contributor with a custom home was the beneficiary of a tax value that has been frozen since 2005, while a neighboring home owned by a Colorado Rockies star has seen a $350,000 increase in value over the same period.
Other county assessors following the situation in the greater Denver area, raised concerns about the fact that it was the elected Adams County assessor who personally reviewed each of these properties and approved the lower valuation adjustments by acting as the account manager. These officials stated that to maintain their own independence, they typically rely on their staff to review appeals and rarely act as the account manager on an individual property owner’s case.
The Adams county assessor defended his actions by stating that he was unaware that the properties involved were owned by major campaign contributors. He also commented that it was not unusual for taxpayers with valuation concerns to come into the office and ask him to personally review their case.
If you live in Adams County or the greater Denver area this is not the kind of situation that inspires confidence in the independence of the annual property assessment process. Take matters into your own hands and don’t rely on Adams County to get the value of your home right. Use ValueAppeal to ensure that you pay only your fair share of the property tax burden – regardless of whether you donate to political candidates or not!