Rondeau: Don’t sit idly by as Eagle Co. taxes go up | VailDaily.com
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Rondeau: Don’t sit idly by as Eagle Co. taxes go up

Paul Rondeau
Vail CO, Colorado

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series on the rise of property taxes in Eagle County. The first installment ran Monday, Dec. 31. To read the first installment, log onto http://www.vaildaily.com and search under “Paul Rondeau.”

Remember, your total property tax comes from a long list of individual taxing entities. Each takes the sum of the market values of all the properties (via the calculated “assessed value”) and multiplies it by their unique tax rate, equaling their slice of the property tax. The same formula works for individual taxpayers using the market value for your property.

There are 77 taxing entities in Eagle County. About half have been allowed ” by voter approval ” to keep their tax rate fixed. This “de-Brucing” means as property values rise, so does the tax in direct proportion. The tax rate would normally be required to be reduced (with inflation and other adjustments) in a rising market situation because of the 1992 Colorado TABOR amendment.

If taxpayers have an interest in studying taxes to judge if they are too high, too low or just right, a game plan might be:

1) Review your county-determined property value (“actual value”). Protesting is allowed every two years in May of each year.

2) Review your total tax bill that comes out in January of each year. Put it in perspective. You might say, “hey, my property is worth more, and just as I expect to pay more for homeowners insurance, I expect to pay more for the property taxes.” Or you might say “why do they need more money ” way above the inflation rate?”

3) Look at each taxing entity’s slice of the tax pie and consider each slice as a percent of the total.

You might determine if their share is well-earned or not well-earned.

4) Determine if a taxing entity is TABOR-exempt, i.e. their tax rate fixed. If so, ask them the amount they will collect and how they plan to use any additional tax revenue collected this year over last ” noting part of this may come from an expanded tax base of newly constructed property.

For example, Vail and the Vail Recreation District are nearly identical in their taxing area and had just more than a 50 percent tax collection increase. Here, the recreation district has taken the lead by publicly identifying the increased revenue use for needed projects, thereby dampening the notion of a “windfall” of property tax.

5) Finally, if you have strong issues, you must get involved by: (a) listening/speaking out at public meetings, (b) writing letters/contacting elected officials, (c) organizing a critical mass of taxpayers, (d) listening/questioning candidates for public office, (e) understanding ballot tax proposals before voting ” they are seldom written in plain English.

6) In perspective, the residential property taxes in our area are low compared to other parts of the country. This is mainly due to a large number of second homes where the owners do not require extensive public services, i.e. schools, etc. and the shifting of a significant portion of the property tax burden to commercial property due to the 1982 Colorado Constitution Gallagher amendment. Given that, most of us are willing to have our taxes go up if we see clear benefits, needs and operational improvement trends, coupled with an opportunity to be truly involved in some key decisions.

Listening and evaluating citizen input, along with soliciting their involvement does not come free of time for elected officials or staff.

The time must be budgeted so it is not viewed as a distraction to “getting real work done”.

Finally, this tax business ultimately affects us all, whether we own or lease property.

Paul Rondeau is a Vail resident. E-mail comments about this column to editor@vaildaily.com.


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