UPDATE: Just as we published this piece, we did another check of the numbers on the Weld County website. It now appears the discrepancy in tax evaluations has been cured, likely after we contacted Polis’ office on Wednesday, or when we contacted the assessor’s office in early June. The ‘dry farmland’ which was previously given an assessed value of $200 is now assessed at $1,600. Was it our investigation that forced the change? We’ll try to find out. Until then, our original report on the possible tax discrepancy remains unedited below. To support our original report, you can view this scan of a property evaluation from the assessor’s website that we printed on May 14, when we originally started the investigation.
U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-Boulder) may be underpaying taxes on a portion of his beloved Weld County property, but it’s difficult to say that definitively.
Polis’ office has not returned a request for comment, and the Weld County Assessor’s office gave a cryptic response to our inquiry.
For starters, our questions arose after a blog post from our friends at Colorado Peak Politics, which used arial photos from the Assessor’s website* to ask a legitimate question about the true nature of any “guest house” on the property which Polis mentions in a homemade video.
But since then, a diligent tipster to CompleteColorado.com showed us another quirk on the Polis ranch.
The first item we’ll enter into evidence is this snapshot from the Assessor’s website. It’s a piece of Polis’ property which is sprinkler irrigated. Further information from the website shows that the sprinkler irrigated portion of the land is assessed at $6,880 for 37 acres. Using round numbers, that’s an assessment of $185 per acre. You can see the long sprinkler arm pointing in the 2 o’clock direction.
The key to remember is dry farmland is assessed at a far lower rate.
The next item of evidence is another parcel of land just south of the one we just showed you. It’s described as dry farmland, and according to the 2009-10 image, it does indeed look to be dry farmland. It’s assessed at $200 for about 10 acres, making the assessment $20 per acre. That’s about 9 times cheaper than the sprinkler irrigated piece of land we already showed you.
But where it gets interesting is when you switch the image to the latest round of imagery, taken from 2011-12.
That looks like a sprinkler irrigation system to me! However, the latest 2014 assessment shows the parcel of land is still being designated as “dry farmland,” meaning it’s all too possible the farmland is being under assessed by a factor of 9.
Weld County Assessor Chris Woodruff told us the following via email:
My office will be inspecting these properties again later this year based on a permit issued last year for flood damage. At that time all characteristics and uses will be checked and verified. After the facts are known we will make a decision as to how to proceed. The taxes for 2014 are not levied and collected until 2015.
As with any other property, we will be working with the property owner to establish and verify use and to gain access to the interior of the buildings.
There are a lot of questions still to be answered before I can respond to your questions.
I will get in touch with you when I have the facts and we have made a determination based on those facts.
*The Weld County Assessor’s website comes with the standard disclaimer that they cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided through that portal.
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