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Thibodeau v. Denver County Board of Commissioners

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

August 23, 2018

Joseph H. Thibodeau, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Denver County Board of Commissioners and Board of Assessment Appeals, Respondents-Appellees.

          Board of Assessment Appeals Case No. 68926

          N.H. Wright and Associates, Norman H. Wright, Dillon, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellant

          Kristin M. Bronson, City Attorney, Noah Cecil, Assistant City Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee Denver County Board of Commissioners

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, John A. Lizza, First Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellee Board of Assessment Appeals

          Dailey and Casebolt [*] , JJ., concur

          OPINION

          TOW JUDGE

          ¶ 1 Petitioner, Joseph H. Thibodeau, appeals an order of the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) denying his abatement petition for the 2014 tax year. We affirm. I. Background ¶ 2 Thibodeau purchased the subject property, a residence located in the City and County of Denver, in July 2013. Earlier that year, the property was valued at $803, 800 for ad valorem tax purposes. In May 2014, Thibodeau received notice that the City and County of Denver Assessor's Office increased its assessment of the property's value to $1, 169, 700.

         ¶ 3 Thibodeau unsuccessfully protested the increase with the Assessor before petitioning for abatement from the Denver County Board of Commissioners, sitting as the Denver County Board of Equalization (BOE). Thibodeau argued that the City erred in reassessing the subject property in an intervening year because no unusual condition existed. The BOE rejected his claim and upheld the 2014 assessment.

         ¶ 4 Thibodeau then filed an appeal with the BAA, again contending that the BAA should reduce the subject property's 2014 value to the 2013 value of $803, 800. At the hearing, the BOE requested that the property's value be lowered from $1, 169, 700 to $1, 150, 000, based on an appraisal by a licensed residential appraiser. The BAA concluded that the mischaracterization of the property's condition as average, rather than good, led to an incorrect 2013 assessment of the property's value. Therefore, the assessor was permitted to correct the incorrect assessment during the intervening year. Additionally, the BAA found that there was sufficient evidence to support the value testified to by the appraiser.

         ¶ 5 On appeal, Thibodeau argues that the BAA erred in upholding the City and County of Denver's reassessment of his property because section 39-1-104(11)(b)(I), C.R.S. 2017, only permits redeterminations in intervening years when unusual conditions exist. He also contends that the reassessment violated his constitutional right to equal protection in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co. v. County Commission, 488 U.S. 336 (1989). We consider, and reject, each contention in turn.

         II. Standard of Review

         ¶ 6 A challenge to the BAA's property tax assessment requires us to review questions of law and fact. We may only set aside the BAA's decision if the BAA failed to abide by the statutory scheme for calculating property taxes, or its decision is unsupported by competent evidence. Jefferson Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs v. S.T. Spano Greenhouses, Inc., 155 P.3d 422, 424 (Colo.App. 2006). Because statutory interpretation is a question of law, we review the BAA's interpretation of the relevant statute de novo. Id.

         ¶ 7 However, we defer to the BAA's findings of fact. "It is the function of the BAA, not the reviewing court, to weigh the evidence and resolve any conflicts." Bd. of Assessment Appeals v. Sampson, 105 P.3d 198, 208 (Colo. 2005). And, Thibodeau bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the property assessment is incorrect. Id. at 202.

         III. Correction of a Property Assessment in an Intervening Year

         ¶ 8 Thibodeau first contends that the BAA erred in concluding that the assessor was permitted to reassess his property value in an intervening year without showing that an unusual condition existed. We conclude that section 39-1-104(11)(b)(I) authorizes assessors to correct incorrect property assessments in intervening years.

          A. The Assessor's Authority ¶ 9 Section 39-1-104(10.2)(a) provides that "beginning with the property tax year which commences January 1, 1989, a reassessment cycle shall be instituted with each cycle consisting of two full calendar years." In other words, property value assessments are calculated once every two years. But, reassessments of property values are permitted in intervening years if "any unusual conditions in or related to any real property which would result in an ...


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