The Good Fight
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
5/24 UPDATE: Jefferson County's Protest Deadline has been EXTENDED to June 15.
Ron Sandstrom is a newcomer to political office with impressive real-world experience. He is owner of F&S Tax Consultants of Arvada, a firm representing property owners for the last 25 years. Previously, he worked in accounting for Illinois-based Revere Copper & Brass, Reynolds Metals and Smoler, and then for Coors Brewing right here in Golden. Ron is a native of Chicago and lives with wife Patricia in Arvada. They have five children and six grandchildren. Mr. Sandstrom is impressively energetic and appears determined to make significant and positive change for tax payers. Since taking office in January 2015, Ron has made notable improvements by reducing office operating costs while enhancing public access and experience.
On May 17 Mr. Sandstrom was kind enough to give me a history of the Colorado Property Assessment Valuation process, explain how taxes are calculated, and answer the question on so many minds: How do I Protest my Tax Valuation?
How Taxes are Calculated
Tax is calculated simply: MILL LEVY x ASSESSED VALUE = TAX AMOUNT. Levies are determined by local taxing authorities, that's a discussion for another time. Assessed Value is determined by the Assessor's Office.
Jefferson County is BIG. There are 240,558 property schedules to manage, 176,381 of which are single family residential. The County makes valuations through Mass Appraisals using automated models of "comparable home" sales in a surrounding area to determine Real Property Value. Sales between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016 are included for the 2017 cycle. Valuations also consider regional location and neighborhood, property type (single family, condo, duplex, etc.), and home characteristics (quality, living size area, age, bath type/count, garage type/size, basement type/size, heating type).
How do I Protest my Tax Valuation?
Before we start, two pieces of good news are in order. One, Colorado's property tax rate was reduced for the first time in 13 years earlier this month, from 7.96% to 7.20% due to 1982's Gallagher Amendment.
Two, in 2015, Jefferson County's Assessor's office received 11,000 protests. Half were successfully reduced without elevation to the Jefferson County Board of Equalization (JCBOE).
To take YOUR best shot:
Base the protest on the characteristics and/or condition of your property. Haven't made any upgrades since it was built, while homes that sold in the last two years were remodeled and improved? Your property is arguably worth less than the "comparable homes" used to assess its 2017 value.
Do you have structural damage yet to be fixed? Provide information, with pictures. Documentation is your friend.
Examine County records. They could inadvertently overstate square footage, number of rooms, or show a basement that is finished when it isn’t. Detail any discrepancies, bring photos and available documentation to corroborate.
Have a recent appraisal determining a lower value? Bring it! It is powerful.
Protests due June 15, 2017. You can file by mail, on-line or in person. Mr. Sandstrom recommends in person filing. Read that again, please. It deserves attention. And the Taj is such a lovely place to visit, especially this time of year, don't you think? :)
They make it easy. The Office is now open 7:30am to 5:30pm with no lunch closure. Expect a warm welcome and to be helped quickly with no appointment necessary. Average wait time is only two minutes. You should be greeted with four things: "Good morning. How are you? How can I help you?" — and a smile. It's now standard operating procedure. The dude is serious, sharp as a tack, and certifiably cool. If you have any doubt about that, hear this: He still uses a flip phone.
I hope this information is useful. As noted earlier, Valuation is only part of your property tax equation. Below are additional ways that may reduce your overall property tax. Some of these items may apply to someone you know. If so, please spread the word and share this post (links below).
Thanks for connecting. SCHWINGSTATE is here to help.
Homeowners 65Y+ who have lived in their home for 10+ years pay half property taxes on first $200,000 in value. A similar exemption is available for permanently disabled veterans. Call the Assessor's office for more information.
Disabled persons or persons 60Y+ may be able to trade volunteer hours in lieu of taxes in "property tax work-off programs." Check with your local government and school district.
Read ballot measures carefully and understand how they will affect your tax burden. Colorado's Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights constitutional amendment (TABOR, 1992) placed limits on the amount of tax revenue that can be collected by governments and mandates tax rebates when revenues exceed limits tied to population growth. The term “de-Brucing” refers to ballot measures that allow governments to opt out of TABOR's limits and mandates. Several municipalities, including Denver, have de-Bruced their finances with approval of local voters.
Local governments hold budget hearings in late summer and early fall. Attend them, speak up and encourage spending management.
The Jefferson County Assesor's Office is located on the second floor at 100 Jefferson County Parkway, Suite 2500, in Golden, CO 80419. Phone (303) 271-8600. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax: 303-271-8660. Real Estate Information 303-271-8666. Business Personal Property Information 303-271-8693.
Michelle Schwinghammer is a REALTOR®, Notary Public, and Certified Negotiation Expert® who provides real estate expertise and reliability to people in Denver and Jefferson Counties.