Letter: Fleecing of Eagle County taxpayers
Last Feb. 8, a group of Eagle County citizens met in Edwards to attempt to understand why our property taxes took the largest one-year increase in history. A group of 147 voters attended as well as 11 members of the Eagle County Taxing Authorities. I didnt even realize we had 77 tax boards or taxing authorities in Eagle County, so it got better as we proceeded. (Mark Chapin, our County Assessor, told us 14 of the Boards dont collect property taxes to make us feel a little better.)However, most in the room knew their county assessed homeowners values had gone up significantly and felt under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) our tax increases would be managed to a reasonable level by the taxing authorities. To our amazement, we learned that 34 of the 77 taxing authorities had opted out under TABOR in a county ballot measure in 1995. This means the taxing authorities could do whatever they like with the individual mill levies each year. If your assessed values go up and the mill levy stays the same, then the taxing authority makes a huge windfall in tax money. In fact, the County Assessor told us he had over 7,000 appeals on homeowners increased assessed values but very few complaints of increased property taxes so 7,000 of you knew more than the rest of us!The bad news was that most of the 7,000 appeals were disapproved based on neighborhood real estate sales in base years. Heres a Sampling of 23 taxing authorities tax increases:Eagle County 38 percentCMC 38 percentTown of Gypsum 53 percentTown of Vail 52 percentEagle County Health Service 38 percentEagle Ranch Metro 64 percentBerry Creek Metro 29 percent. Three of the Taxing Authorities of the 23 broken out had acceptable common sense tax increases: Avon Metro increased 2 percent; Eagle River Water & Sanitation District increased 3 percent; and Beaver Creek Metro increased 6 percent. Why and what did they know the rest didnt?At the meeting it seemed like all the Taxing Authorities had special needs and tried to sell their part of the $38 million one-year increase salaries, new trucks, early childhood development, roundabouts, buildings, land purchases, etc. But what about the needs of citizens who will have to refinance to remain in the Valley, or pay increased rents and house payments, or just plain have to sell their homes and move on, or cut family vacations, or home improvements, or pull kids from college? The possible impacts I just mentioned all surfaced at the meeting by citizens! In 2007, the Social Security Cost of Living adjustment was only 2.3 percent. Seems a bit unfair for county property taxes to be more than the Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners across America.So did the taxing authorities get or understand what was said at the meeting? Sadly and probably the most disturbing point I got from the public meeting was no, they did not! The general opinions and justifications told to the group were that your houses are worth lots more now and youll just have to find a way to pay the extra taxes this year, and expect another property assessed value increase in 2009, 2011, 2013, etc. with similar property tax increases due in those years. So how can a large group of our citizens (our neighbors next door) who serve on these tax boards be so tough on the rest of us in this Valley who dont live in a 10,000-square-foot mansion or a Vail penthouse? My sad reply is that it appears the Taxing Authorities are in the process of forcing the less fortunate and fixed income families and the two-member working class families from the Valley! What can be done? It is time for everyone who owns a phone or e-mail address to start calling and writing letters of complaint and start attending meetings with these 63 taxing authorities who collect property taxes. We need to get our clear common sense tax approach for reasonable property tax increases across to these board members to lower mill levies and stop these windfall tax increases. Set a budget and follow it like the rest of us!The next public meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion to ask more questions of taxing authorities, explore TABOR, and to set up a plan of action on how to proceed. To join our concerned citizens group, please contact the Eagle County Property Taxpayers for Common Sense through Chuck Taylor, CPA, at 970-949-7103 or email@example.com.Whatever comes out of this meeting has to be judged on the best interests of the citizens of Eagle County who are being hit very hard with this unprecedented, unreasonable property tax increase.