Do you know everything that your computer operating system can do? Do you care?
Or do you only care that you can share your photos on the device of your choosing, and that your bank accounts are safe?
Well, I bet the same logic applies to your property taxes.
Do you know which services the La Plata County government supplies and how much of your property taxes go toward these services? Or how much goes to your school district and the water conservation district, and the mosquito district, and the cemetery district and various other districts? Do you care? Or do you only care that your roads are good enough and your children are getting a quality education?
Real estate agents have a mantra: “location, location, location.” They know that different neighborhoods pay taxes for different services provided by the various taxing districts. As all property owners in La Plata County will be receiving a tax notice from the Treasurer’s office by the end of January, I thought I would share a few insights about all the fine print on this piece of paper.
First, the big picture. The county treasurer is an elected position. The treasurer does not report to the board of county commissioners, nor to the school board, to the fire protection board or to about 50 other such districts for which I am the tax collector. The county treasurer has about 2,000 pages of state statutes to follow for this process alone! It is complex.
Each of these districts is a “taxing authority.” Each of these authorities has a board of directors, and each authority must hold elections for their board members – and elections – if they want to increase taxes. Every “tax district” (your location) is serviced by some, but not all, of these authorities. The taxing authorities in your tax district will be listed on your tax notice, along with how much of your property taxes will go to each of these individual organizations.
Although your tax notice tells you where your money goes, it doesn’t tell you what you get for your money. For that, you need to do some digging. Each of these entities holds meetings, and I encourage you to attend. You will learn what services these organizations do, and do not, provide. As such, you learn about “features,” what each organization does and not, about the “benefits” of this complex operating system and the vision, culture or community you want to create in your neighborhood.
So why am I writing about this? Because each of these taxing entities receives limited revenue from you, and the primary way these revenues can be raised is if you vote affirmatively for a tax increase. And that must be done, for each of these authorities, individually.
As budgets get tighter and tighter, each one of these organizations could come to you and request a tax increase. It will be up to you and your neighbors to decide which are the ones you want to support.
What type of community do you want to live in now, and to create for the future? Which of these aspects do you value most? Talk to your neighbors. Decide for yourselves.
Now, the little picture. If you have a mortgage with an escrow account, your property taxes will be paid by your mortgage company. You are receiving a property tax notice for your personal records. Compare this with what your mortgage company will pay later this year on your behalf. They will adjust your escrow account according to any over- or under- payment from what they have collected from you this past year.
If you do not have an escrow account, how can you pay your property taxes? Taxes can be paid in two half payments by Feb. 28 and June 15, or in one lump sum by April 30.
After these dates, monthly interest attaches to your taxes due. You can pay taxes online with a credit or debit card (for which there is a 2.19 percent convenience fee), or by e-check (no fee). The website is: http://bit.ly/1U5yUGC.
You can mail your tax payment, with the coupon you will receive, to our lockbox in Denver. In addition, you can call us and we will assist you through the payment process, or you can come in to the office and pay in person. We enjoy having the personal contact with you, our customers.
Remember that your feedback helps us make this office work better for you.
Allison Aichele is the La Plata County treasurer. Reach her at Allison.firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6352.