Where do your property taxes go?

Who pays what?
County Value by Property Types
2018 Tax Revenue: $37,608,985

RBC | In a few weeks Rio Blanco County property owners will receive updated “Notice of Valuation” postcards from the county assessor’s office. Those valuations—based on a complex formula of local real estate sale prices and property improvements—will determine what you owe in property taxes next year. In a nutshell, assessed value is a percentage of sale—or estimated sale—value.


Rio Blanco County’s property taxes are among the lowest in the state, averaging $609 a year according to tax-rates.org. Neighboring Garfield County averages  twice that, at $1,276.

For RBC, oil and gas generates almost half—45%—of the  annual total, while industrial brings in another 31%. By contrast, residential property generates 4% and agricultural property brings in just 2%. Property tax dollars collected make up approximately 30% of the county’s overall revenue.

Where does it go?
Distribution of Revenue – 2018
% of the county’s operating budget
About 1/3 of county revenue comes from property taxes.
2019 Operating Budget:

About 20% of property tax dollars collected go into the county’s coffers. The rest of the monies are distributed to schools and special districts according to previously established mill levies. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Since the implementation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment in 1992, mill levies cannot be increased without going to a public ballot. The result? Communities reliant on a single industry can’t raise mill levies to support their fire districts, recreation districts or school districts without voter approval when that industry is in decline.

According to RBC Assessor Renae Nielson, most of the west side of the county’s special district mill levies were established when the west side was flush with oil revenue, resulting in low mill levies for most of that side’s special districts. As oil revenue has decreased, the special districts have found themselves subject to ever-shrinking budgets with no way to raise revenue without going to ballot.


Exactly what you pay in property tax depends on your particular location and your particular classification: commercial, agricultural, residential, industrial, etc. There are specific requirements to be met to qualify for each qualification.

Agricultural property, for example, is valued on the 10-year earning capacity of the land’s net market value, not on the market value of the land. 

What if you get your new valuation and disagree with the assessed value of your property? Residents can complete the protest form on the back of the valuation postcard and return it to the Assessor’s Office beginning May 1. Protests must by postmarked by June 1 or hand delivered by June 3.

By Niki Turner | editor@ht1885.com