Gallagher repeal passing at state level; local questions mixed
Early returns show state measure passing by a wide margin
Voters across Colorado Tuesday were asked to repeal the state’s Gallagher Amendment. Voters in Eagle County and the towns of Vail, Avon and Eagle were asked essentially the same question. So were voters in the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which extends from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott.
The state question to repeal the amendment — Amendment B — maintains the current residential assessment rate — 7.15% of a home’s assessed value is subject to tax. That rate can only be increased by a vote of the people.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the state measure was passing by with roughly 57% of the vote. Eagle County voters were also approving the county’s similar measure by a similar ratio.
The amendment over the past several years has caused a good bit of fiscal trouble for local governments in rural areas, since the amendment’s formula has resulted in significant declines in the assessment rate.
That means local governments — towns, counties, school districts and special districts including fire, ambulance and library districts — have for several years faced dwindling budgets even in the face of population increases.
The Eagle River Fire Protection District this fall conducted its own election for relief from Gallagher restrictions. That question was similar to those asked by the county and towns.
Voters approved that measure by a tally of 4,769 for and 1,803 against.
Since the assessment rates are imposed statewide — although there’s no state-level property tax — there’s no difference in assessment rate changes between urban and rural areas.
In Vail, which asked essentially the same question the state did — Finance Director Kathleen Halloran earlier this year estimated the next planned assessment rate cut — from 7.15% to 5.88% — would cost the town $1.4 million per year from 2021 on.
Avon, with a much smaller residential property tax base, is expected to see a revenue decline of nearly $250,000 in 2021. That town’s measure was failing as of 9 p.m.
State Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the Colorado Legislature, said Monday he hadn’t seen any polling on Amendment B, but expected a close result.
Roberts noted pro-Amendment B groups had raised money and had “prominent” people, both Democrats and Republicans, endorse the measure.
“Tax questions are complicated,” Roberts said. “But if it’s on statewide and local ballots, it must be a big deal.”
Avon Mayor Sarah Smith-Hymes agreed that multiple questions on the same ballot might send a message to voters.
Smith-Hymes also agreed with Roberts that tax questions, particularly regarding the Gallagher Amendment, can be hard for many people to understand.
Vail Town Councilmember Jenn Bruno said she’s talked this year to a number of people about the town’s ballot issue. She believes voters in that town understood the importance of the ballot issue.
“Overall, I think people understand how important it is to maintain town services.
“We have a very engaged community,” Bruno said, adding she hoped residents understood “these are not frivolous items we’re talking about” when it comes to town services.
Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said putting any tax question on a ballot is difficult. But, he added, voters at least need to be asked sometimes-difficult questions. As of 9 p.m., that town’s measure was failing
But, with the apparent passage of the statewide amendment, those local issues aren’t as important.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.