Vail Daily’s View: Time not right for 3B, 103, 5A
Vail, CO, Colorado
First, none of the handful of requests for tax increases on this ballot lacks logic or was poorly conceived. Each government asking for help needs it.
The schools, fire districts, towns, special districts and county all need more funds to continue the work they are doing, though only a few are seeking extra taxation to do it. Most recognize this maybe isn’t the best time.
Whether they are doing their work well or poorly is rather beside the point.
The hard, hard question has to do with the dramatic loss of income and property value in our valley and the timing of raising taxes – yes, even by tiny grains here and there – at the bottom of a recession that has not yet let go of this community.
If you believe that now is the time to change the proportion of the tax load in a community working through a record level of foreclosures, at least 6,000 fewer jobs and still downsizing and closing businesses, then each request to increase taxes is valid and needed.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Remember, though, that in the case of property taxes, while the residential property tax rate is low – arguably too low – the commercial property rate is four times higher. The consequence for the business community, the major bearer of the burden, is significant.
If you believe that the health and welfare of those who pay the taxes need to come first so that more will survive to support the services we need for the long term, well, the answer to governments that want to maintain boom-level taxation at the bottom of the recession is hard but ultimately clear.
These are close calls, though. Prudent investment in education, for instance, brings long-term benefits. The mechanisms that guide state funding for schools indeed are deeply flawed.
So it’s not with a cavalier spirit that we recommend against the proposed Band-Aids 3B, the local school tax increase, and Proposition 103, the statewide drop in the bucket, mindful of the adage about trying to tax your way to prosperity.
Our position comes not from lack of empathy for the governments that have struggled but rather from understanding that conditions for those we ask to shoulder the taxing burdens must improve for prudent investment to properly follow. The chicken, in our view, in this case comes before the egg.
Private enterprises that provide essential services for society do not have the opportunity to raise taxes to cover shortfalls in the economy. They simply must adjust to the sometimes brutal realities of the sharpest, deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
The governments asking for property tax increases are just now reaching that point when frankly artificially inflated property assessments finally are falling from the peak of a remarkable bubble that peaked in 2006-08 for the Vail Valley before crashing.
Is it sustainable to expect boom-time taxation continuing through today’s conditions?
It does follow that boom-time service needs to be rethought, as well.
If the economic cycle turns, as we’re beginning to see in the economy tied to visitors, then we can better gauge – and afford – a realigning of the tax load where necessary.
If the economy doesn’t improve for the long term, as some fear, the adjustments required for all the essential public services will likely have consequences even larger than the unpleasant work of right-sizing educational and fire services to today’s reality.
For all the understandable campaign rhetoric, neither the school district nor Eagle River Fire will turn to dust and blow away if its tiny tax increase does not pass.
Both will become more inventive – yes, of necessity – and continue to do capable jobs as they have through their histories. Even if neither believes that now. Too many organizations have traveled this path – successfully – and wound up setting themselves up very well for the future through the brutal pruning they had no choice but to complete.
These are close calls on well-constructed proposals that, taken individually, ask little extra of taxpayers unless they happen to own commercial property or rent space for their businesses.
The day will come, and relatively soon, that this state will need to fundamentally rework the TABOR and Gallagher amendments to keep taxation in check without starving essential services.
For now, though, we don’t see the time as right for the Band-Aids 3B, state proposition 103 or 5A.