School district to hike property tax next year |

School district to hike property tax next year

Veronica Whitney

When residents in Eagle County get their taxes next spring, they’ll learn the district’s property taxes are being increased about $3 per $100,000 of assessed value.

That means property owners will be paying $201.13 per $100,000 of assessed value, instead of $198.14.

“This amount reflects voter-approved tax increases. Most particularly, the increase reflects repayment of bonds issued to build schools,” said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district. “Think of the district’s bond redemption fund as its mortgage on schools.”

The school district has four outstanding bonds. On June 30, the outstanding general obligation debt will be $79 million.

Those bonds, issued with Eagle County voters’ approval in the past 15 years, have been used for the construction of Gypsum Creek Middle School, Brush Creek Elementary School and Red Hill Elementary School.

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“When the district presents a bond issue to the voters, the finance department calculates what district residents will contribute in

higher property taxes,” Boyd said. “In the 1998 election, the estimate was an additional $19 per $100,000. As you can see, $3 per $100,000 is actually lower and reflects the overall growth in assessed valuation in Eagle County.”

Cost of living

Eagle County’s commissioners have certified the mill levy for the school district’s 2002-03 fiscal year, which has increased from 21.65 to 21.98.

The school district sets a mill levy each December to set the tax rate for

local property tax payers.

“Local tax revenues comprise the vast majority – more than 91 percent – of the Eagle County School District budget,” said Karen Strackbein, school district director of finance. “We’ve been very lucky; we collect 99 percent of our property taxes.”

The school district was able to raise the mill levy because voters in Eagle County have approved the bonds, Boyd said. Colorado’s TABOR amendment – also known as the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights – doesn’t allow to increase the mill levy unless approved by voters.

“The mill levy is a reflection of the district’s budget,” Boyd said, “which in turn is determined by the per-pupil funding mechanism contained within the Colorado School Finance Act.”

That law allocates money to the district based on the actual number of students attending local schools, with each student representing a specific dollar amount. For the 2002-03 budget, the per-pupil funding amount is $5,982.

The school district’s four obligation bonds date from 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998, when voters agreed to a $48 million loan, with a total repayment of $103 million, Boyd said. The final payment for all bonds is scheduled for Dec. 1, 2018.

“We’re still well below the limits of debt we can ask for,” Boyd said.

The new mill levy also includes the cost-of-living adjustment allowed by the Colorado School Finance Act – Question 3D – approved by voters in 2001, Strackbein said. Although 3D money is tied down in a lawsuit against the school district filed by publisher Michael Cacioppo, the school district has been collecting it from taxpayers.

“If and when that lawsuit is decided in our favor,” Boyd said, “the teachers will get the money retroactive to March 2002.”

Comparing numbers:

– Eagle County’s current total assessed valuation – $1,913,737,280.

– 2001-02 mill levy – 21.655, or $198.14 per $100,000 of valuation

– 2002-03 mill levy – 21.981, or $201.13 per $100,000 of valuation

– Cherry Creek School District’s current total assessed valuation – $3,917,843,010

– 2002-03 mill levy – 47.331, or $434.03 per $100,000 of valuation.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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