There's good news and good news for homeowners in Colorado Springs and the rest of El Paso County.
Even as local housing values continue to climb, the state assessment rate is dropping for the first time since 2003, meaning lower property taxes in 2017 and 2018 for homeowners.
The projected statewide residential assessment rate is 6.56 percent - a significant drop from the 7.96 percent rate used for the past 14 years, County Assessor Steve Schleiker said Monday during a presentation to the Colorado Springs City Council.
The assessment rate is used as a multiplier on a property's actual value to set its assessed value, which is taxed.
A $300,000 house, for example, would be assessed at $19,680 under the new rate. Assuming the owner pays 75 mills total in taxes to library and school districts, the city and other entities, his tax bill would be $1,476 - down $315 from his bill under the 7.96 percent rate.
Yet even as taxes dip, values on most property throughout the county are rising by 10 percent to 15 percent, with increases of up to 8 percent for agricultural land and 10 percent for restaurants, Schleiker said.
He said the county will start mailing out valuations May 1, and property owners have until June 1 to appeal. For the first time, those appeals can be done on-line, at http://land.elpasoco.com.
About half of the appeals filed in 2015 were successful, Schleiker said.
Valuations are done in odd-numbered years, and this year's valuations are based on real estate sales during the 24 months leading up to June 30, 2016. Last year, the county had 248,318 active real property parcels, including mobile homes, Schleiker reported.
So why change the assessment rate? Thank former legislator Dennis J. Gallagher, who wrote the Gallagher Amendment approved by Colorado voters in 1982. It dictates that the state maintain a split of about 45 percent of total assessed value for residential properties and 55 percent for non-residential. To do so, the residential assessment rate is adjusted. The non-residential rate is capped at 29 percent.
Faster growth in nonresidential values in the early 2000s should have triggered an increase in the residential rate, noted city Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner. But the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights prohibits increased assessment rates without voter approval, so the residential rate was stuck at 7.96 percent for more than a decade.