Editorial: In your pocket for the full 40 | VailDaily.com

Editorial: In your pocket for the full 40

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

The Eagle County commissioners’ recent explanation for why they plan to keep their entire tax windfall from an average 40 percent leap in property tax assessments is reasonable, logical and … wrong-headed.

If they gave back half to the taxpayers, who will feel the bite, they’d still reap a windfall.

They’d help business, which pays at a substantially higher property tax rate than residents, thanks to quirks in the state law.

They shouldn’t be pleading veritable poverty from their chambers overseeing one of the richest counties in America, during a time when many local governments elsewhere are enduring actual shortfalls in revenue.

We think they can do better, set a better example, think a bit more about the constituents paying these taxes.

The full 40 amounts to fleecing the taxpayers, frankly. Their 40 percent raise comes from somewhere, after all. That would be the property owners’ wallets.

The county’s low tax rate ” low for residents but not businesses ” comes with extremely high property values. That means higher tax bills. Likewise, talking about tax rates staying the same is to avoid the point that the high rise in valuation means a high rise in the tax to be paid. Let’s not mince around the subject.

Much of the “need” the commissioners express for keeping the loot is for rebuilding and expanding an “aging,” cramped Justice Center. A secret survey found that Eagle County voters are skeptical, to say the least.

Only in Eagle County is a 22-year-old building considered old. The jail does seem to be too small, and a bond that’s well explained and targeted probably would earn the voters’ approval. The case for the courts is weaker; scheduling efficiencies look far from exhausted. The DA’s office might have less expensive solutions than simply building anew.

The county may view itself as a business, and that’s great. But business exists to bring value. When they get too pricey, their customers look elsewhere for service.

Of course, Eagle County’s taxpayers are a relatively captive funding source. Their choices are limited to what shareholders do when an organization’s directors get reckless.

Two of the three county commissioner positions will be up for election in 2008. Commissioner Arn Menconi will be term-limited, so his seat will be open with no tug of incumbency to help the Democratic Party keep a hold of the seat.

Commissioner Peter Runyon can run for re-election if he so chooses. You have to wonder how he thinks his election bid would be aided by voting to keep the full windfall with the justification that much of the money will be kept for a new justice center that has proven to be unpopular with voters.

The local Republicans should be salivating, politically speaking, as they anticipate next year’s elections.

As for the commissioners, they plainly are counting on the voters going along quietly, as the public usually does. Of course, that is up to you.

Maybe you are OK with the county fishing around in your pockets for “their” full 40. If not, better speak up now.

” Don Rogers for the Editorial Board

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