WALSENBURG- With income tax returns due this week, there is also taxing confusion between the Huerfano County Assessor’s Office and some residents of the Majors Ranch, a rural subdivision of 179 individual parcels located approximately nine miles northwest of Walsenburg, south of State Highway 69. At issue, each individual property within the subdivision will have brand new status classifications assigned by the Assessor’s Office. The new status will affect the valuation and eventually the tax rate once the mill levy is applied. As a result, emotions run high between some of the members and officers of the Majors Ranch Owners Association (MROA).
According to Huerfano County Assessor’s office appraiser Bruce Quintana, properties will be classified either, Residential, Agricultural or Vacant. “The change in status does not necessarily mean an increase in taxes. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and the classifications for status depend on the components on the property,” Quintana said. “There has been some confusion.”
A change in status for some properties will result in higher taxes as land, once used for grazing cattle and classified as Agricultural, has changed to the status of Vacant. Grazing by Red Creek ceased in 2007 after a 2006 comprehensive soil evaluation by CSU Extension Service Agent Jim Conley determined the development was severely overgrazed by cattle. Some of the property owners fear their taxes on vacant land would become unaffordable resulting in the loss of their properties.
According to land use codes provided by Quintana, residential homes, even if containing agricultural-related outbuildings, will be assessed at the 7.96% residential rate as are any other comparable residences. Huerfano County will use the entire county for recent comparable market sales. In this situation, there could be a slight reduction in taxes, Quintana said. Typically, if the parcel has no home on it, and has Agricultural status, it would be valued on the land’s capacity to grow crops, or graze livestock. However Agricultural Status was removed after Red Creek stopped grazing, so unimproved properties will be regarded as Vacant for the time being. Agricultural land could jump between $30-35 per acre under the new status valuations. The Assessor’s Office says these changes are necessary and consistent based on requirements for all county assessors in Colorado.
The MROA had hired attorney Gary Hanisch to help in possible litigation. Results may soon be resolved and disclosed to the residents and public.
One resident of Majors Ranch interviewed for this story stated he was unwilling to go on the record due to rumors of law suits. This story takes many twists and turns. The Huerfano Journal will stay on top of any further developments.