Ferry: It’s time to ‘re-Bruce’ Eagle County
Vail, CO Colorado
Sponsored by Eagle County Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group of about 150 concerned citizens met on Friday, Feb. 8 in Edwards to discuss the recent increases to their property tax bills.
That was my politically correct attempt.
Now here’s what really happened: A group of angry citizens met to tell elected officials and representatives from a variety of taxing authorities that “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.”
Clearly, the group that assembled was upset with the recent increases in both
assessed valuations and property tax bills. In fact, when the question was posed directly ” “Who isn’t happy with the tax increases?” ” all but one hand shot in the air. Apparently the lone woman who responded in favor of the increases has more faith in government than the rest of attendees.
It’s fair to say the most striking example of overkill came from a plumber whose taxes on a property west of Edwards rose from $4,300 to $9,200 in one year! He estimates that half of the salary his wife makes driving a school bus will go just to pay this increase, and their son will now be attending CMC instead of CU.
What’s the solution? Many previously available options are past the deadline for any adjustment this year. They included appeals and most importantly, pressure on the 77 taxing authorities to lower their mill levies. And here’s where I have little patience with the citizens in the Vail Valley. There were things that could have been done. There were actions that could have been taken. But residents failed to act when time was of the essence and instead started to moan and groan after the fact.
So what can be done now? The first priority is to “re-Bruce” all of the taxing authorities that took advantage of the voters’ good nature in years past. After TABOR was passed, many of these taxing authorities went to the voters to ask for exemption from the regulations that had been put into place to control taxes. And we said yes. At least some of us did. Well guess what? We made a mistake. It’s time to go back to the original intent of TABOR, which is to limit spending by limiting the ability to collect taxes. There is a provision that allows these taxing authorities to go the voter for specific increases. Instead we gave them carte blanche, and it’s time to take it back.
Of course it goes without saying, the greatest revenge is at the ballot box. Exercise your right in November and make sure that candidates pledge to hold the line in the future.
But one of the fallacies evident at last Friday’s meeting is that each taxing authority believes they’re not the problem. The mantra of the day seemed to be, “It’s not our fault, we only got a 2 percent increase” or a “3 percent increase.” Even the county, with a 38 percent increase, felt justified in keeping it. But the error is in forgetting that they add up to 100 percent for a total of $38 million in Eagle County ” or an increase on average of 42 percent for each taxpayer.
I don’t care how you do the math, that’s a lot. I think it was Everett Dirksen who said: “A million here, a million there. Pretty soon you’re talking about real money!”
And part of the irony is that Gov. Ritter’s freeze on the mill levy on education, (which by the way accounts for about 43 percent of your tax bill) does nothing for education. While many thought the beneficiary of this freeze would be education, the reality is that this increase goes into the General Fund to be spent on who knows what. So it was with great amazement I read “state officials are considering several proposals to raise money for colleges and universities as they weigh their chances of gaining support from voters.” Well, I can give them my answer right now: Fat chance. Hit the bricks. See ya later. Remember the saying, “First time shame on you, second time shame on me?” Well it’s shame on us if we allow this mentality to continue.
Then we get down to the procedure used by the county for appeals. I am not clear why it’s the taxpayer’s job to prove that an assessment is wrong. It seems to me that it’s the county’s job to prove why they are right. Isn’t that how the American legal system works?
And even more interesting, it’s not the same in Denver. Down there, when a taxpayer experiences an increase, comparables that were the basis for the increase are included with the tax bill. Hopefully we will get that info here, too. The county is discussing that as we speak.
There are other more radical approaches that deserve discussion, such as proposition 13 in California, which establishes an acquisition-value assessment system. It provides that property is to be assessed at its value when acquired through a change of ownership or by new construction. Thereafter, the taxable value of property may increase annually by no more than the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is less.
Now two FYIs: The next meeting of this group is Feb. 25 at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion at 7 p.m. Also, keep in mind, you can appeal your assessments every year, not just on the two year re-assessment cycle.
And now for two corrections from last week’s column. The Vail Daily printed a name in error. Mark Foley was really Kevin Foley. Then Mayor Cleveland wanted me to clarify that he did not submit his priorities in order of importance. Here’s his random list of top 5 priorities: environment, housing, Art in Public Places, Vail Recreation District and Timber Ridge.
Do your part- call them and write them
To contact the Vail Town Council, call 479-1860 X8 or email town firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Vail Resorts call 476-5601 or email email@example.com
For past columns, vaildaily.com-commentary or search: ferry