County to contract property appraisals

Understaffing has hindered work of assessor's office

Elbert County Assessor Billie Mills called a four-year deal with Thimgan & Associates "a huge asset for Elbert County.”

The Elbert County commissioners have approved $360,000 in funding for the county assessor's office to enter into a professional services agreement with Thimgan & Associates, an ad-valorem valuation-consulting firm located in La Junta. 

The four-year agreement, approved at a special meeting of the commissioners on July 30, enlists the firm to assist the assessor's office with appraisals and inspections of nearly 10,000 of the approximately 16,000 properties registered in the county.

“This is a huge asset for Elbert County,” Billie Mills, Elbert County assessor, wrote in a July 30 email. “The assessor's office has been understaffed for several years and has only been able to do the new construction and the sales.”

The goal of the agreement is to develop market models and to establish market values by reappraising land and improvements, including physical inspections of all improved properties registered in Elbert County.

The agreement, set to begin on Aug. 15, folds in existing services already provided by Thimgan & Associates with assessments and market valuations.

Mills is confident that the retirement of the county's chief appraiser, who is leaving at the end of the year, will offset the majority of the cost for the four-year deal. Mills estimates that it would cost around $70,000 per year in salary and benefits to fill the vacated position with an employee holding a Certified General License, while the contract with Thimgan will amount to $78,000 over the $9,000 per year the county is already paying the firm and will offer a depth of services well beyond the capability of a single employee.

In addition, both Mills and the commissioners anticipate increased revenues to the county over the long term as each taxpayer's property values become "fair and equitable."

“Every property in Elbert County will be looked at. If anything has been missed over the years, it will be picked up. With this service, it should generate more revenue for the county and all the entities,” Mills wrote, referring to fire districts and other services provided in the county.

Any increase in revenues would not be immediate. Real properties in Elbert County are revalued in odd years, so any future revenues would be based on the timing of each valuation. No decision has been made yet as to where the inspections will begin.

Kim Higgins, a partner with Eide Bailly CPA firm, praised the decision during her presentation of the 2013 county audit to the commissioners on July 30 as a good step toward improving the county's business practices and enhancing the availability of timely financial information.

The motion passed with a unanimous vote and was enthusiastically supported by all three commissioners.