The two candidates for Pitkin County assessor, Deb Bamesberger and Mick Ireland, on Thursday discussed during Squirm Night why they want to head the office, what can be done to improve it and taxation of second homes.
Both said the office’s software can stand an upgrade, one that would make it easier for both staff members and residents seeking information about property valuations. Ireland said appraisers should be able to work with property databases from anywhere in the valley, and not have to do such tasks exclusively at the office, and that the assessor’s office computers should be able to mesh easily with basic programs such as Microsoft Excel.
“You should be able to bring up all the information about a piece of property on a single screen,” he said. “As it is now, you can’t.”
The goal should be the ability to more easily tell a property owner how their home or land was valued, said Ireland, a tax attorney and former Aspen mayor and county commissioner.
Bamesberger called the office’s current computer infrastructure “very sophisticated,” and she estimated that the upgrade she or Ireland would seek if elected would cost $100,000. She said she would try to make it part of the annual budget because it would be “very valuable.”
They are seeking to replace Tom Isaac, who is retiring after heading the office for nearly 30 years. The job pays just under $100,000.
Ireland said that for any matters before the assessor’s office involving current or future clients of his, such as a property-tax appeal, he would recuse himself. He acknowledged that he is not a certified appraiser but intends to take courses to become one.
Questioned by Aspen Daily News Editor Curtis Wackerle and David Krause, Aspen Times editor, on GrassRoots TV, Ireland said the job involves “applying the facts and the law to an individual case.”
Krause questioned Bamesberger about the lack of background and issues listed on her campaign website. She said she has attended an accounting school, has had a lucrative career in the Aspen area in real estate and has also been an escrow officer with Pitkin County Title, a private firm. She has worked under Isaac in the assessor’s office as a personal property analyst for nearly seven years and has a master’s degree in real estate.
“Taking state statute classes and learning everything about the assessor’s office, and how I do what I do, is what makes me more experienced” than Ireland, she said.
Asked by Wackerle why the “on the issues” section of her website is blank, Bamesberger said she doesn’t have any issues with the assessor’s office.
“As Mick said, this is not a political office,” she said. “There really aren’t any issues.”
Ireland said he doesn’t support taxing second homes any differently from a person’s primary residence — “it should all be the same,” he said, adding it would take amending the state constitution.
Wackerle also asked Bamesberger about comments she made in late September about tax issues she and her husband experienced following the recession. They included being fined by the county for late property taxes and over $100,000 in federal liens over nonpayment of taxes. Bamesberger said she was not prepared for the interview with the Aspen Daily News and “blurted out” responses to a reporter’s questions, including saying that she is “very good with money, just not my own.”
“I wasn’t prepared at all to answer [the reporter’s] questions,” she said. “I was nervous as he was asking these questions.”
She said as a successful real estate broker, has paid tens of thousands of dollars in income taxes. She said an IRS audit uncovered that her husband had failed to disclose some of his income, and reiterated that she now files her taxes separately from him.
“We took care of everything, and it’s now all paid off,” she said. “I’m a stronger person because of it. It was very tough.”
Ballots for the Nov. 6 election are to be mailed on Monday.