I stopped by Jodi Amato's (County Assessor) office yesterday, and had a very interesting conversation. First, let me say that she's very helpful and knowledgeable, and she welcomes any telephone calls and/or emails from any of us.
The real estate tax rate we currently have is based on the fact that we have a grazing lease plus our covenants that state that "Owners agree to perpetuate the environment of the subject property as that of a working ranch for themselves and their successors in interest. All Owners of the Properties shall have the right to the use and the quiet enjoyment of their Lots as a working mountain ranch subject to the specific rights and obligations".
I handed her my tax bill, and asked her to tell me what my taxes would be if we did not have a grazing lease. If you have a home on your lot, the home and the 2 acres surrounding your home are taxed at an improved rate based on its valuation. The remaining land (about 33 acres) are currently valued at $30/acre. If we did not have a grazing lease that remaining land would be valued at market value which is about $2,000/acre. In my particular case, my property tax bill would increase by about 50%. That percentage could vary depending on the value given to one's improvements. For example, someone whose home is valued at $500,000 would experience a smaller percentage of increase than someone whose home is valued at $100,000, because tax increase is based on an increase in land value which would be about the same for everyone with a home. (Hope that makes sense!) Jodi had to do several calculations to come up with the estimated increase to my tax bill, so it's not as simple as it sounds.
My next question was about those who own only a lot with no improvements. Now, this was a shocker! She said that the land would then fall under the 29% rule. (Not sure exactly what that is.) Therefore, the tax bill for a plain lot would increase from about $13/year to $787/year! Yikes!!
All of the numbers she gave me were estimates since the various mill levies can change.
My last question for Jodi was the what would be the minimum number of cattle that would be acceptable for a grazing lease on SFTR. She said that for an answer to that I should talk to the NCRS office, and they could give me an idea of what our ranch might be able to support. I told her that Rusty had always varied the number of cattle up here depending on grazing conditions, and Jodi was fine with that. She did emphatically say that just one head of cattle up here would not be acceptable.
Jodi told me that a survey is going out to all property owners in all of the various developments in the county. The Assessor's Office is gathering various types of information including whether people want grazing, whether there are grazing leases in place, etc. She told me that no matter what folks on SFTR want, the fact that we have a grazing lease and our covenants support that, we can continue as we have.
Let me know if you any further questions. I have not contacted the NCRS yet, but will do so if you want.
August 19, 2016