Property tax increases, discrepancies elicit frustration in County Council meeting

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — The Summit County Council (SCC) held a formal presentation on property tax increases from the Summit County Assessor, Auditor, and Treasurer in its council meeting on Wednesday evening. The presentation ended with a public comment period, in-person and via Zoom, with residents concerned over inconsistencies.

Property taxes are determined by the county assessor using a ‘mass appraisal’ system. Each property is reviewed every five years and appraised yearly from sales of comparable area properties. After the appraisal, a county auditor, using the Utah State Tax Commission certified rate formula, calculates tax rates in each taxing authority.

In 2021, the county had a 58% increase in single-family home sale prices and an 11% increase in the 2022 fiscal year. Many homeowners are seeing drastic changes in their property tax, some even doubling the amount. Complaints of assessment discrepancies are due to some properties seeing decreases while others are skyrocketing. 

Even City Council Chair Chris Robinson explained his taxes’ overwhelming rise.

“My value went up to 100%, and my taxes went up 100% or roughly a little over double, ” said Robinson.

The topic of staffing regarding the number of appraisers in relation to how much territory they are required to cover was a major concern. The department asserted in multiple rebuttals their inability to keep up due to being understaffed.

“Each appraiser has that five-year cycle within his or her area, and they take 20% of that to reappraise each year.  We have seven appraisers.  Skylar Jenkins does our south Summit area. We have Courtney Simmons, who’s an appraiser trainee, very new, first year. She’s doing north Summit. We have Kyrsten Richens, who’s taking over the condos, who is also a brand new trainee going through the classes and the process. Kenny Jacobson does our commercial. We have Mindy Duncan and Matt Hone doing Snyderville Basin and Travis Lewis in Park City proper, County Assessor,” said Stephanie Poll, the county assessor.

“To summarize, 42,000 parcels, just seven appraisers. Rocket scientists or not, that math [says there] is a lot of parcels, per appraiser, [with] a requirement to do 20% in each area,” said Robinson.

With property taxes increasing for most homeowners in Summit County, one demographic was mentioned as not being very close to market rate; those are businesses, with many in the Snyderville Basin and Canyons area mentioned. 

Robinson asked, “There’s sort of two issues. One is, is it your belief that the commercial valuations in 2022 are accurate, or do you believe that there are issues with them still?”

“I have believed for some time that our commercial values are low. In the Snyderville Basin area, absolutely. But, Old Town has been brought current, as has Kamas,” said Poll.

Robinson asked, “Does the Snyderville Basin commercial just a get a free pass for 2022?”

Although Poll said that the residential portion of the assessment is accurate with no major discrepancy sans a few outliers, there is nothing the assessors can do for the Snyderville Basin area commercial since they don’t currently have the numbers to back up any changes nor the staff to rectify it.

“How many hands and toes and fingers have I got for staff appraisers … Right now, they’re not doing their new growth; they’re not doing their detail review; because for two weeks, they’ve had their head to a headset or emailing. They’re working on board of equalization right now. There is not the staffing for me to take that information that we’ve gotten from the state and address that,” said Poll.

Robinson pointed out that the time crunch of September 15 is the deadline to do any kind of further analysis on the commercial properties in the Snyderville Basin. It’s not known how much of a difference the area would have on the property tax issues, but it’s something he would like to understand and get help with if needed. Poll came back with the same argument of staffing.

“I agree with you. I would like you to explain how you want us to reappraise nearly 500 parcels of commercial while still doing the jobs that the appraisers are doing right now,” said Poll.

The council meeting raised many questions regarding staffing, why the Snyderville Basin commercial area hasn’t been assessed since 2017, and the need for a data analyst position to better help with outliers and accuracy among the different assessments and others.

Arguments continued with the assessors stating it is not feasible to reassess the commercial properties before the deadline in September, even with the state tax commission’s help. A goal is to fix the issue before next year’s tax valuation in the spring.

Council Chair Robinson ended the session by saying that the council would have a closed meeting to discuss property tax issues further.

Those who disagree with their property tax increase can file an appeal by 5 p.m. on September 15, 45 days from the mailing of the valuations. There is also potential for a property tax relief or deferral for eligible taxpayers.

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