Editorial: Give back some tax
A big bump in your property tax bill translates to a small boost for Eagle County and smaller local governments here.So why do our politicians insist on keeping their little windfalls from an average 40 percent spike in property values?The response to recent editorials suggesting they give some of their gains back to the taxpayers has not been positive.Talk to the county’s politicians, and they’ve just got to have it. All of it.Due to how property taxes are sliced and diced among the governments, the county’s take will only be around $4.5 million. Most of that so far is earmarked to expand the county jail, courtrooms and district attorney’s building next door. The justice center has been in the news recently, in part for a secret survey that showed floating a bond for the job would not pass muster with the voters.You’d think these leaders would take the hint. Instead, they’ll put their windfall toward a project their constituents have shown they don’t favor. But why pick on the county government? After all, it is just one of numerous entities that collect property taxes, including the school district.Well, the governor, in concert with the Democrat-led state Legislature, by edict has frozen the school property tax rates to provide more money to the state. We’ve complained in the past that this was a cheap trick on the taxpayers, a backdoor tax increase without voters’ approval.The county government fashions itself as setting the example for the numerous smaller governments also collecting windfalls in property tax. The county has the biggest budget by far at more than $100 million. As examples go, the commissioners are setting a poor one for considering the cost of the collective windfall on their constituents. There is no way to sugarcoat what has become obvious. A little bit here and a little bit there adds up quickly.The commissioners point out that rapid growth creates more need for services but leave out that inconvenient fact that the same growth comes with growth in taxpayers. There is a legitimate question about living within one’s means here. Further, what of the counties and other local governments across the country dealing with actual drops in property tax revenue these days? Compared to them, Eagle County’s leaders show little clue of what constitutes truly “scrupulous” attention to spending.The county – and the smaller local governments – can afford to reduce the property tax rate and still reap the benefits of a 20 percent increase from the spike in property values since the last assessment, two years ago. That would come to 10 percent annual growth. Still a lot more than pay raises.Yes, the voters would have to be consulted before agreeing to future tax rate increases. But what really is so bad about that? Shouldn’t voters have some control over whopping increases in the taxes they pay?The fair thing is to give some of the windfall back to those who must bear the burden of it, even if it’s difficult to get voters to agree to rate increases in the future. It is their money, after all, in case the politicians have forgotten. -Don Rogers for the Editorial Board
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