J. ANGEL LEWIS
Candidate for Assessor in Pueblo County
Thank you for visiting this site! Here, you will find out about J. Angel Lewis and some of the issues that we face here in Pueblo County.
To be effective as assessor, an individual must possess a unique set of qualities and skills. It requires knowledge of the Colorado Constitution and experience in the appraisal values of real and personal property. But it really starts with the desire to serve and represent the people. Angel believes in consistency, the constitution and community.
Angel’s experience is extensive and includes over a decade and a half as a real estate paralegal. Upon the death of her parents, she moved from Georgia to Colorado to be closer to her family. She later obtained her license as a Realtor in Colorado passing the examination on her first attempt. Angel was born and raised in Iowa and is a graduate of the University of Iowa receiving a bachelor of arts degree in political science, and later received an associate of arts degree from Kirkwood Community College in paralegal studies. At Kirkwood, Angel graduated at the top of her class, and interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Iowa. She is currently a fourth-year law student and currently one of the top students in her class, and a member of Delta Theta Phi law fraternity (Park Senate). Angel will have her Juris Doctor in November 2022.
The people of Pueblo deserve an assessor who will proactively educate them on the law and how and how and when to appeal any valuation, an Assessor who will apply the laws equally and consistently, and also act as an advocate by pointing out errors in values when discovered and correcting these errors.
Angel understands the nature of the Assessor’s possession, the laws the Assessor must follow under the Colorado Constitution and by Colorado Statute, but also understands residents and business owners who are frustrated by enormous increases in values and taxes.
A note from J. Angel Lewis:
I will be graduating with my J.D. in November of this year and am one of the top students in my graduating class. But right now, this is what I choose to do - I would receive more personal gratification fixing these issues and helping my community where I live. I have seen that there are issues with current assessments and with the Office of the Assessor - issues that have persisted for years. Because I was a real estate paralegal for over a decade and a half, and a licensed Realtor for the State of Colorado, this is a problem that I know that I can and will fix. This is my focus and commitment to you. It would be a pleasure and an honor to serve the great people of Pueblo County!
What Does the Assessor Do?
The Assessor has one job. To value your property. The Assessor does not set the tax rates, nor collect taxes. Those jobs are left to the State, County and City.
If the values are set too low, Pueblo County could lose essential services - if set too high, property owners could be paying too much.
But you may be thinking, how is this calculated? Colorado law requires that all real properties "shall be that value determined by appropriate consideration of the cost approach, the market approach, and the income approach to appraisal...". C.R.S. 39-1-103(5)(a).
As a Realtor and during my years as a paralegal, I can tell you that I have seen my fair share of appraisals - which look at recent home sales of similar properties - same lot size, same square foot, same bedrooms/bathrooms and make adjustments where needed. You have probably seen these when you purchased your property. This one may have an extra bath, or that one an extra garage space - or this one may be on a lot with great views. All of these factors are considered in determining your property value - either when appraisal time comes or when you decide to sell or look to buy a home.
For land values only, I'd look for water rights, terrain, if the property was fully fenced, if there are any structures on the land that would add to its value, if the land is suited for cattle and how many head and if so, if there are any city/county regulations that could pose a problem for a potential buyer/seller. You get the idea.
The Assessor sends a 'Notice of Valuation' (NOV) to the property owner, and the owner has the month of May to contest the value. 2022 is an 'off' year, as the NOV's are sent out in odd years unless there is a change in the property value.
So, when you receive an NOV, you have the month of May of the year you received it to contest the valuation. If you don't call or write the Assessor, that assessment becomes your assessed value for the following two (2) year(s). For example, everyone should have received an NOV in May of 2021, which reflects the value as of January 2021. This takes effect for tax year 2022. When you received your property tax bill in 2022, it should be based on the assessed value based on the letter from the Assessor in 2021. The tax bill is sent from the County Treasurer's office who collects the taxes.
16 YEARS OF "I PASSED THE AUDIT" IS NOT ENOUGH - THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION AND THE PEOPLE OF PUEBLO DEMAND MORE!
"I passed the audit" is not enough - Colorado Constitution and the People of Pueblo Demand More
My opponent, Frank Beltran, has been in office for close to 16 years. For years, "below average" properties were overvalued by the assessor - I found several for 2010 (which is as far as the assessor's web page goes back) and the issue continued in 2011. How do I know? I found several lower quality homes actually exceeding the taxable value of comparable homes of higher quality. While some of these valuations changed in 2011, how can an assessor pass and certify an audit knowing these discrepancies exist?
Several other counties contracted with Pueblo to use Pueblo's property valuation, praised by the Frank Beltran to be one of the best - yet these counties scrapped it. Did they know that it was riddled with errors, or were there other issues? Millions of OUR taxpayer dollars were spent on this system with IT staff - why did they back out? In 2021, the entire system was scrapped for a 'canned' system, Pueblo County now uses the same system as California and Washington using a company based in the United Kingdom. What does a company in the U.K. know about properties in Pueblo County? If the old system was constantly updated and had IT support staff, why spend millions on a new system run by a third party based in the United Kingdom?
In 2021 tax valuations, property statements no longer showed the value for land separate from the value of improvements. Was this because there was no change in land values over 9 years while improvements saw an increase?
After 16 years in office AND a new million dollar + system? Taxable values for homes in 2021 make NO SENSE. I realize that the county does what they call "mass appraisals" but overall taxable value increased significantly with wide fluctuations in value. Most homeowners saw an increase in the value of their properties (I know I did), but the changes were NOT uniform. In some neighborhoods, the 2021 changes in value ranged from a 2% decrease to a 59% increase - ON THE SAME STREET. Does that sound right to you?
I look at it this way: These values are either non-market in violation of Colorado law, OR the old values were non-market in violation of Colorado law and the homeowners had been getting taxed unfairly for years.
Either way, do you really want to re-elect an assessor that fails to follow the constitution of Colorado?
Do you want to add another 4 years to someone who has already served 16 years with this track record - that would put him at 20 years as an elected official?
Or are you ready for a fresh pair of eyes? Someone that has attention to detail, and won't hide from the People of Pueblo, will increase transparency and follow the Colorado laws and the Colorado Constitution?
I will not avoid compliance issues and will answer to by boss - you the taxpayers!
Elected officials represent the people and must be accountable to those people.
ISSUES WE FACE
While the Constitution requires that homes are based on "market values," most properties have issues that have been occurring for years. Take a look at these homes - do they look different to you?
SAME STYLE HOME ON THE EAST SIDE
2 Bedroom, 1 Bath
Below Average/Fair Quality
3 Bedroom, 1 Bath
Based on the tax bill sent out by the County Treasurer in 2010, the home on the left had a total assessed value of $92,690 - on the right had a total assessed value of $92,058.
A lower quality home with one less bedroom was assessed higher?
Why the difference? I realize that this was 12 years ago - however, this is an example of some of the issues that I have seen with minimal research - all of which were during the current Assessor's 16 years in office.
Both homes are in the same area, both built in 1981 and the exact same lot size.
But, you may be thinking, maybe there were improvements? As a Realtor, this would be the first thing that I would look at! Looking at the permits for the homes, the home on the right had a new roof in 2007. The other, a new furnace.
2021 - assessed values:
$133,018 (left, and still below average)
$165,483 (right, and still average quality)
To be fair, the "below average/fair" home did a substantial remodel in 2020 (wiring, furnace, interior, plumbing, water connection), and the permits were finalized in 2022. We will have to see how these homes compare when the next NOV comes out in May of 2023.
There are homes like this sample all over the City - east, west and south. Lower quality homes being assessed higher than their counterparts.
HOW ABOUT JUST LOTS?
Here are two lots on the same street, right down the street from each other - the NOV's were sent out in 2021 (every 2 years, like they should be). Not only is one lot a corner lot and has more frontage area, it's also larger. Normally, a corner lot like this would be worth more, right?
2021 Assessed Value $12,000
2021 Assessed Value $12,000
Why did only land values stay exactly the same from 2010-2019? Only the improved property increased.
This lot is NOT alone - a lot of homes saw no increase in the land value.
Normally, when property values increase, so does the land.
Yet for a dozen homes in a single Belmont cul-de-sac, the 2021 changes in taxable values for just the land ranged from a 2% decrease to a 50% increase in taxable value. This tells me that there are inherent valuation errors - even with the new million dollar + system.
This makes you wonder how Frank Beltran was able to "pass" and certify his audit.
WHY THE CHANGE IN "PROPERTY VALUATION" LETTERS?
For years, Frank Beltran's office sent out notices of valuation - usually in May every 2 years. They would list the property value broken down by land value, improved values and give you a total. In 2021 this was changed to just a total. You can only determine the land value by either searching on the assessor's webpage (where it is broken down), or cross reference with the Treasurer's Tax Notice and multiply by the current assessment rate.
IT USED TO BE BROKEN OUT
FOR 2021, IT WAS CHANGED
A TOTAL AMOUNT
Why were homes listed as 'below average' valued higher than their 'average' counterparts? How did the assessor pass and certify the audit knowing this information?
Why was a new system purchased by the County Assessor - a canned assessment system - run by a third party based in the United Kingdom? Pueblo's system was developed by in-house IT personnel - constantly updated and purported by Frank Beltran to be far superior to the available generic ('canned') assessment tools; so much so that Mr. Beltran convinced other counties to buy into the existing Pueblo County system - a system that was constantly updated by Pueblo County IT developers, who actually won a national award for adapting the Pueblo County Assessment system to successfully host multiple counties.
On the bottom of the Assessor's web page, it states "Developed for Pueblo County Assessor's Real Property Search by Spatialest." To make matters worse - the company that is now being used isn't even based in the USA! According to the "terms and conditions" page it states: "“We/Us/Our” means Spatialest, a company registered in the UK under NI032650, whose registered address is 32 Lodge Road, Coleraine BT52 1NB and whose main trading address is Riverside House 28 Portstewart Road. Coleraine BT52 1RN." (https://www.spatialest.com/terms-conditions/).
Why are we using a company based out of the United Kingdom - the same one used by California and Washington?
Why are larger corner lots assessed at the same price as smaller lots when they are on the same street and there are no justifications to warrant it?
Why were valuations changed on one street resulting in decreases and substantial increases for just the land?
Why did many properties see no increases in land values from 2010 (as shown on the "previous year valuation" "notice of valuation" letters for 2011) through 2019 and only saw increases in the improved values? The next NOV for several properties showed the land value simply returned to their prior valuation.
Why were the "Notice of Valuation" forms changed in 2021 to no longer separate the land and improvement values?
Perhaps the new Assessor's website should be used in conjunction with the Treasurer's office as a NOV 'actual value' should match the 'actual value' from the Treasurer's office when you receive your tax bill.
Below is an example of a NOV for tax year 2021 and the tax notice sent out by the Treasurer's office for tax year 2021.
Notice of Value for Tax Year 2021 sent from Assessor:
Tax Notice for Tax Year 2021 sent from Treasurer:
Notice anything? The valuations from the Assessor and the Treasurer's offices don't match. Since the NOV for 2021 was sent out in April of 2021 in the amount of 1,571,105, then the treasurer's office should match the Assessor's value when it sent out the tax notices for 2021 (sent months later and is due and payable in 2022) - here it shows 1,384,160.
The Assessor then sent out another NOV in April, 2022 (an intervening year - remember NOV's are usually sent out every 2 years, not every year):
Notice the 'current year' from 2021 on that NOV above. Using the 2021 NOV, the 'current year' should match the 2022 NOV's 'prior year,' or 1,571,105, right? Here, the Treasurer's office amount of 1,384,160 was listed as the 'prior' year and not the NOV prior year.
It very well could be that the property owner contested the value due to the increase of almost $370,000 during that 2-year time span between the NOV letters. However, there is not a corresponding 'updated' NOV on the Assessor's webpage nor are there any notes on the intervening year's NOV to indicate that the 2021 NOV had indeed been contested with the corrected amount. This information should be shown if for no other reason than transparency purposes and so that Realtors, appraisers and lenders are not scratching their heads trying to figure this out.
REPEALING OF THE GALLAGHER AMENDMENT
& SB 21-293
Assessors, like Frank Beltran, should have been "yelling from the mountaintops" about the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment. It repealed part of the Colorado Constitution that mandated that residential properties make up 45% of the tax base. Commerical properties were left paying 55% of the base. Because Colorado is a place where everyone would like to move, residential properties grew far faster than commercial. When Gallagher was repealed, the legislature locked in an assessment rate at 7.15% for residential, and 29% for commercial. SB21-293 temporarily reduced these assessment rates for 2022 and 2023 to residential to 6.8-6.95% with agriculture at 26.4%.
While the rate may be "temporarily" lower, that does NOT mean that you will pay less in property taxes. When market values increase, so does your tax bill. When SB21-293 ends and rates go back to "normal," not only will we have to contend with higher valuations, but also higher percentages being subject to taxation.
Colorado Concern published a study stating that the assessed value of residential properties is scheduled to rise from $70.6 billion in 2021 to $83.9 billion in 2023 ($13.3 billion increase). Commerical properties are scheduled to rise from $38.7 billion in 2021 to $40.1 billion in 2023 ($1.4 billion increase)
While the assessment rate is locked in expect the double whammy of increased valuation percentage and increased value.
This is why after 16 years, we must have a fresh set of eyes!
I am committed to serving the taxpayers of Pueblo County - however, I must state that I may not pass my first audit. But why??? It's easy to pass, but it must be certified. I cannot and will not certify something when I have knowledge or reasonable belief that it is incorrect - it is unethical and a disservice to the people of Pueblo County. While property tax bills are sent out every year, valuations are only done every other year (unless there is a change in the property value by the assessor). The next valuation is to be sent out in May of 2023. Attempting to correct errors from an assessor who has been in office for 16 years (and I've shown you errors that I found from 12 years ago forward) in a mere 16-week timeframe may not be humanly possible, especially with what I have discovered in just a few hours and have shared with you on this webpage.
Relief in Sight??
The Colorado Legislature passed a bill and the governor signed into law a bill that would "reduce the tax rate" for businesses and residential properties which would be in effect for 2 years. While they mentioned "saving $274" later referred to "$230" for a home "valued at $500,000," I'm not sure how this will work. Above, I mentioned SB21-293, which reduced the assessment rate after Coloradoans repealed Gallagher for tax years 2022 and 2023. The rate was 6.8-6.95% (residential) and 26.4% (non-residential).
The new bill, SB22-238 again changed the assessment rates. The new rates vary by year. Here is a link to the bill: 2023 And 2024 Property Tax | Colorado General Assembly
For the 2023 property tax year:
Nonresidential property, excluding agricultural and renewable energy production nonresidential to 27.9%;
Residential property, including multi-family residential property, to 6.765%;
Reduces the actual value used for purposes of the valuation for assessment of commercial real property by $30,000 and of residential real property by $15,000.
For the 2024 property tax year:
Section 1: agricultural property or renewable energy production property at 26.4%;
Section 2: residential real property other than multi-family residential real property as a percentage of the actual value of the property based on there being a specific modification determined by the property tax administrator; and
Section 2 also establishes the valuation for assessment for multi-family residential at 6.8%.
Section 4 requires the adjustment of the ratio of valuation for assessment for all residential real property other than multi-family residential real property for the 2024 property tax year, so that the aggregate decrease in local government property tax revenue during the 2023 and 2024 property tax years, as a result of the bill, equals $700 million.
Here is my conundrum: your property could increase by $20,000. For example, the value of your home for tax year 2021/2 was $250,000 at 6.8% ($17,000). The new value for tax year 2023 could be $270,000. First, we reduce the actual valuation by $15,000, or $255,000 - even at the new rate of 6.765% (or $17,250.75), this is not a savings - this is still an increase (17,000 vs. 17,250.75).
Now more than ever, the Assessor MUST ensure that properties are valued correctly - so that property owners are not overpaying or underpaying. After 16 years, we need a fresh pair of eyes - eyes that will look out for the citizens of Pueblo County.
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