Survey: Vail faces hard work to pass Gallagher repeal | VailDaily.com
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Survey: Vail faces hard work to pass Gallagher repeal

Most voters 55 and older oppose effort to repeal constitutional amendment that continues to drop property tax assessment rates

Vail officials say town services could be cut if voters don't agree to free the town from the restrictions of Colorado's Gallagher Amendment.
What’s Gallagher? The Gallagher amendment to the Colorado Constitution was passed by voters in 1982. The amendment sets a ratio the share of property taxes paid by residential and commercial property owners. Commercial property always pays 55% of the total. Since more residential than commercial property is added to the tax rolls every year, the residential assessment rate has continued to fall.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday unanimously agreed to ask voters to remove the town from the requirements of the state’s Gallagher amendment. Passing that request could be hard work.

In advance of putting the question on the Nov. 3 ballot, the town hired Magellan Strategies and Summit Information Services to conduct a survey via text message. That survey was conducted between Aug. 24 and 27 and had 484 responses.

The survey gathered demographic, party affiliation and other information from respondents. The results showed that ballot measure supporters have some work to do.

More women than men answered the survey, and Democrats outnumbered Republicans. People between 18 and 34 years old made up 30% of respondents, the largest single age group.

Almost all respondents — 95% — said they were “extremely likely” to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Respondents were first presented the ballot question with no explanation. That part of the survey showed more opposition than support, 45% to 39%.

After some explanation, support rose to 52%, with 10% undecided.

David Feherty of Magellan Strategies said that those supporting the ballot issue understand the impact the Gallagher amendment has on the budgets of special district and rural governments.

The amendment results in ever-dropping assessment rates for residential property.

Revenue declines add up

According to town figures, Vail has seen a $1.3 million property tax revenue decline over the past three years. That decline is expected to be $1.4 million for 2021.

Town officials say they want to “stabilize” property tax revenues in town, especially given the declines in sales tax collections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the survey report notes that a majority of voters older than 55 won’t support the measure.

Feherty said that opposition is understandable, given that the older age groups are more likely to be homeowners. While the Vail measure — along with those for the state, Eagle County, the towns of Avon and Eagle and Avon and the Eagle River Fire Protection District — won’t raise tax rates, any future increases in home values will result in higher property tax bills.

Feherty noted that  many comments from those who took the survey urge the town to either make more budget cuts or work with revenue that’s available.

Councilmember Brian Stockmar said if the ballot question doesn’t pass, the town will need to prioritize future cuts. And, he added, police and fire service aren’t likely to be cut. But bus service might be affected if revenue continues to fall.

Councilmember Kim Langmaid said lifting the Gallagher restrictions could allow the town to continue some of its current initiatives.

There’s a chance, but…

Asked if the the ballot measure has a chance of passing, David Cunningham of Summit Information Services said there is a “path to victory,” but that path will require a good bit of voter education.

That’s going to require work from people operating independently of the town government.

Once a tax-related ballot measure has been approved — by any state or local government or special district board — those boards are allowed to pass a resolution of support for the question. After that, no government resources can be used to support a ballot question.

Board members can campaign as individuals, but not in their capacity as elected officials.

During the afternoon presentation, Councilmember Jenn Bruno said “I’d be up for trying — it’s going to be difficult, but I think we can do it.”

As the council prepared to vote Tuesday night to put the question on the ballot, Councilmember Kim Langmaid said the town could “potentially have some good support” for the measure. But, she added, councilmembers and other supporters will need to get out and campaign for the measure.

The ballot question, along with several similar questions, will be on the county’s Nov. 3 ballot.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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