Letter: Rally for lower taxes in Eagle Co.
Vail CO, Colorado
Two public meetings have been held to better understand our huge county tax increases and to look at solutions. Most of the attendees (330) pushed for a lowering of the mill levies and re-votes on the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) that voters had passed on 43 separate ballot issues from 1994 to 2004. Forty-three of our taxing authorities in Eagle County have “opted out” under TABOR and they can lower, maintain, or raise their mill levy each year without voter approval.
Some of the county taxing authorities attended and answered questions or gave presentations and handouts on their budgets and mill levies. They all stated they needed the extra money for projects or a possible downturn in the economy. The increased 2007 assessed home valuations by the county assessor drove up our property taxes significantly as a result of many of the mill levies not being reduced.
My real estate property tax notice lists nine different individual taxing authorities, but the following tax increase percentages show the trend: Eagle County increased 38 percent; Colorado Mountain College increased 38 percent; Town of Vail increased 52 percent; Town of Minturn increased 43 percent; Town of Gypsum increased 53 percent; Eagle Ranch Metro District increased 64 percent; Western Eagle Ambulance District increased 43 percent and Eagle County Health Services increased 38 percent. Some reduced mill levies under the 5.5 percent TABOR-mandated limit: Beaver Creek Metro District increased taxes 5.5 percent even with a 4.786-mill-levy decrease and Eagle River Water and Sanitation District increased taxes 2.8 percent also with a 2.85-mill-levy decrease.
Look at the Eagle County Commissioners’ property tax increases (because they “opted out” of TABOR in November 1995) for the last few years: 2000, 3 percent; 2001,17 percent; 2002, 4 percent; 2003,18 percent; 2004,1 percent; 2005,10 percent; 2006, 4 percent; and 2007, 38 percent. A common-sense approach needs to be adopted by the commissioners and some other county taxing authorities to lower our mill levies in December 2008 to ease this unacceptable tax burden imposed on valley residents.
These large one-year tax increases are exactly why the TABOR law was passed in 1992 to mitigate excessive property assessments and taxing situations like we are currently finding in the valley.
So what can we do as shocked taxpayers to make our positions known and try to influence the taxing authorities to reduce our mill levies?
At the grassroots level, the best approach is to attend taxing authorities’ meetings and complain, neighbor-to-neighbor in a polite professional manner. Let them know about how these actions negatively impact your life. Further, I recommend filing a real property tax appeal to the county assessor this year, and if you succeed in lowering your assessed property valuation you will have lower property taxes.
Start attending Eagle County Board of County Commissioners meetings 11 a.m. every Tuesday in April and May at the Eagle County Building. Take your 3 minutes during the public comment time to tell the commissioners to lower their mill levy and follow a reasonable budget. And then remind them to place the Eagle County TABOR Ballot Issue 1B back on the November 2008 ballot so the citizens of the county can jettison this “opting out” of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
Pressure the Eagle County government and the other 42 taxing authorities to reinstate Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution (TABOR) and Section 29.1.301 of the Colorado Revised Statues (the 5.5percent Annual Levy Law). Our county property taxes will then join the other 36 county taxing authorities who are following the maximum 5.5-percent yearly property tax limit increase.
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